INDIA. Delhi: Vilayati kikar, or Prosopis julifloara, introduced by the British, has wiped out other trees wherever it has grown in Delhi. Vilayati kikar is like a weed and grows very fast in arid conditions like that of Delhi. It kills all competition and causes widespread water-table depletion. The trees have been reported to have caused similar destruction of other plant species in Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu as well.
It has been a long fight spreading over years by tree lovers and environmentalists across the country against this tree species which allows no other species to thrive.
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After announcing plans to get rid of the trees three years ago, the Delhi govt. finally approved replacement of the invasive Mexican trees with native species recently and allocated Rs 12.6 crore for the same in the hope that the area’s original flora, as well as fauna, can be restored.
The government has engaged the Delhi University’s Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystem (CEMDE) head, Professor C. R. Babu, a noted ecologist, for the task, who with his team has previously carried out a successful project at the Aravalli Biodiversity Park, a part of the Southern Ridge.
The forest and wildlife department said work on the forested patch along the central ridge will begin as soon as an MoU was signed with CEMDE to bring back the pristine nature of the central ridge and turn it into a multi-canopy forest within the next five years. This will help to bring several birds, insects, and animals back to the ridge.
Speaking to The Transcontinental Times, a senior forest official said all other clearances had been received. “Yes, there had been delays, including the lockdown, but we are now ready to start the project now. The ‘Kikar-Hatao’ campaign will be initiated from the Central Ridge this year. The ridge is spread over 864 hectares of land, out of which around 443 hectares are available for restoration. In the first phase, 100 hectares will be transformed and gradually rest will be covered over five years,” added the official.
“It is a long-term plan. This year we will be studying the place and strategising on replacement of the Kikar plantation. At present we are actively dealing with the Dehradun Forest Research Institute (FRI) on the scientific research measures to be taken,” said Delhi’s chief wildlife warden.
When TCT team met Babu at his office, he said vilayati kikar would not be removed, but replaced naturally by strangulating it using over 10 varieties of creepers, including giloi, rubber vine, sagar gota and jal jamani. Just like any other plant, kikar also needs sunlight for photosynthesis to manufacture food. The sunlight is needed to produce glucose from CO2 and water. The creepers, once they reach the top of the kikar, will gradually engulf the entire canopy. As a result, the kikar will not get sunshine and can’t photosynthesis. Eventually, they will die. Native species would be planted and once the native species grow to a sufficient height, the vilayati kikar can be removed.
“We do not wish to reduce the green cover in Delhi, but replace it,” added Babu.