Trees for Biodiversity, Manjalar, Tamil Nadu
Plantation of 7,500 native tree saplings was implemented in the catchment areas of the Manjalar river in Devathanapatti forest division, Theni district in Tamil Nadu.
Sedimentation and silting of reservoirs is a matter of vital concern in all water bodies (Compendium of silting of reservoirs in India, April 2015). Optimal management of water resources is the prime necessity of our time for our growing population and development. To check surface runoff and sediment flow to water bodies, plantation of the right tree species can be an efficient solution, enhancing biodiversity habitats and also forest products which can be utilized by locals. Vegetation and plant debris slow surface runoff, preventing sediment and sediment-bound contaminants from entering surface water. Once in the soil, contaminants can be immobilized and transformed by soil microbes or taken up by vegetation. Groundwater flowing through the root zone is also filtered by these processes. Additionally, trees can trap windblown dust before it enters stream and lakes’ (United States Department of Agriculture). Thus, the plantation of right native tree species along the catchment of the Manjalar helps in improving the water quality with a check on reservoir siltation with enhanced carbon sequestration potential.
The selected region is predominantly defined with the Tropical Dry Evergreen vegetation. Several endemic flora like Dalbergia latifolia, Haldina cordifolia are also common in the region. Indigenous tree species-like Karanj (Pongamia pinnata), Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna), Neem (Azadirachta indica), Vijayasar (Pterocarpus marsiupium), Jamun (Syzygium cumini) among other ecological as well as economically valued species has been selected for the plantation at identified sites.
The region shows relatively rich flora and fauna which lies in the fringe of the Kodaikanal Wildlife Sanctuary. The dominant fauna found in the area including Leopards, Malabar hornbill, Malabar grey hornbill, Malabar grey giant squirrel among others
Plantation of 7500 valued native trees among the identified sites will enhance the biodiversity of the region. Local livelihoods are mostly dependent on forest resources such as fruit, fodder, gum, honey, lac, biomass, fuelwood, etc. The local economy comprising of families living below the poverty line will improve over time. The selected area is inhabited mostly by the Palaiyar community. They are traditional nomadic hunter-gatherers, honey hunters and foragers. The Palaiyar community livelihood subsists on trades of forest products, food cultivation and beekeeping. Some work intermittently as wage labourers, mostly on plantations.(Culture and lifestyle of Paliyan tribes, Social Research Journal, K Shenbaham). Locals show a high dependency on the forest resources. They collect jamun, amla, neem, tamarind, wild-honey and fish.
Coconut, maize, paddy, sugarcane and mango are major cash crops in the region. Increasing incidences of crop depredation from wild animals like wild boar, monkey, bison, deer causing major damages to this sensitive local economy. Additionally, implementing the project would be able to create about 1500 rural workdays supplementing to sensitive local economy reaching out to nearly 200 households mainly living below the poverty line. The project would also create awareness and involve community directly in conservation action taking sustainable developmental pathways.