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Riparian vegetation under threat

By Our Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, SEPT. 6. Valuable riparian vegetation along the banks of the Chalakudy River is under threat owing to various human activities. This includes riparian vegetation close to the Athirappally and Vazhachal waterfalls where the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) is proposing a run-of-the-river hydroelectric project.

A study by K.H. Amithabachan, research student of the Department of Botany, Calicut University, found that sand mining was the most destructive human activity going on in the river margins. The study, titled `Riparian Vegetation along the Mid and the Lower Zones of Chalakudy River', was carried out under the Kerala Research Programme on Local Level Development of the Centre for Development Studies here.

Rich in biodiversity

The riparian vegetation in the Athirappally-Vazhachal region, the study stresses, is one of the remaining low-altitude riparian forests in the State and is rich in biodiversity. A wide range of plants, including eight species of orchids, grow there. Ochalandra and other species add to the scenic beauty of the area. Some of the forested areas on the banks of the river are located just above 50 metres from the mean sea level. These needed to be protected.

The study notes that riparian vegetation of a width of 10 m. in the low altitudes and of more than 20-metre width in the forest areas is necessary for maintaining the normal health of the riparian zone.

Forest areas under the control of the KSEB and the Plantation Corporation of Kerala are seriously damaged. Conservation measures are urgently required in those areas. Sand mining from the river should be regulated based on the rate of deposition in each area, it adds.

Create awareness

Tourism activities and the operation of private firms in the areas should be monitored and controlled. Proper awareness about the importance of riparian vegetation and its significance on the river ecosystem should be created among the public, the study says. The study recommends that riparian regeneration programmes should be initiated by local self-governments (LSGs) with the cooperation of riparian land-owners. A forum with representatives from the district administration, LSGs, non-governmental organisations and scientists should be formed to execute plans for the conservation of the river system, the study adds.

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