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Action plan to preserve grasslands in the Nilgiris

D.Radhakrishnan

Watch towers have been put up at vantage points

Udhagamandalam: Described in tourist brochures as one of the major attractions the rolling grasslands of the Nilgiris have over the years been affected in many ways.

As a result the Forest Department was according priority to their preservation.

Speaking to The Hindu here on Wednesday, the District Forest Officer, Nilgiris South Division, K. N. Sreganesh said that there were 2,000 hectares of grasslands in the Nilgiris.

The original appearance of the grasslands and the `shola' forests had taken a severe beating. The grasslands of the Nilgiris, mainly found in the Western catchment, Nilgiris Peak, Mukkurthi, Upper Bhavani and Lord Wenlock Downs had suffered due to biotic disturbances caused by frequent fires, cutting, overgrazing, trampling, soil erosion, frost and raising of annual and plantation crops.

While they were originally a mixture of species like Chrysopogon, Ischaemum, Ropogon, Eragrostis and Panicum, various pressures had changed their composition considerably.

To check further degradation, the department had put in place an action plan under the Hill Area Development Programme (HADP).

To prevent them from being charred by wild fires during the dry seasons fire line scrapping was done in fire-prone areas. Watch towers have been put up at vantage points near the Western Catchment, Naduvattam and Ninth Mile. They had helped in not only tackling fire-related problems but also regeneration of grass.

Camps

`Green Camps' are being periodically organised to create awareness among students and teachers. Mr. Sreganesh said that grasslands were ecologically important since they were among the most efficient and effective biotic forces.

They covered roughly 46 million square kilometres of the earth's surface. Twenty-five of the 145 major watersheds of the world had at least 50 per cent of grassland. Worldwide around 234 Centres of Plant Diversity (CPD) included grassland habitat.

The montane grasslands of the Western Ghats formed a mosaic with the evergreen forests and those of the Nilgiris had an ecological, recreational and functional value.

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