Eco-restoration: Foresters to weed out vilayati kikar from Central Ridge | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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Eco-restoration: Foresters to weed out vilayati kikar from Central Ridge

Jun 28, 2022 02:41 AM IST

Forest officials said while a major chunk of the invasive tree species has been pruned in the pilot project area, adjacent to Vande Mataram Marg, the plantation work is set to begin next month, when the monsoon hits the capital.

To weed out the invasive vilayati kikar (prosopis juliflora) from a 20 hectare area of the Central Ridge, the Delhi forest and wildlife department will be carrying out pruning of these trees for a period of around three years and simultaneously growing native Aravalli species next to them as part of an eco-restoration project launched by environment minister Gopal Rai on April 27.

Vilayati kikar (Babul) tree at Ridge in New Delhi.(Ravi Choudhary/HT File Photo)
Vilayati kikar (Babul) tree at Ridge in New Delhi.(Ravi Choudhary/HT File Photo)

Forest officials said while a major chunk of the invasive tree species has been pruned in the pilot project area, adjacent to Vande Mataram Marg, the plantation work is set to begin next month, when the monsoon hits the capital.

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A senior forest official said while initially, a 10 hectare area was chosen for the pilot project, it has been widened to cover 20 hectares now, and depending on how the project proceeds, foresters will be able to make an informed decision on whether the invasive tree species can be naturally killed or removed. In total, 423 hectares of the 864 hectare Central Ridge is to be ecologically restored in the long-run.

“We will keep pruning these trees at regular intervals to create enough room for sunlight to penetrate through to the ground, where native saplings are being planted. Once these native spalings grow to a good height, over the next two to three years, they will be able to compete with the vilayati kikar and eventually, there will be more native species than vilayati kikar, which currently dominates the Ridge,” a forest official said, on condition of anonymity.

While launching the project in April, Rai had said that a list of native trees had been prepared for eradicating vilayati kikar, and the long-term plan was to remove the invasive species from around 7,500 hectares of forest land across Delhi.

“The exercise of removing the invasive species will be done by the “canopy lifting (tree pruning)” method. Under this project, the Central Ridge would be freed from the vilayati kikar and a “cut root stock” method will also be used to prevent the expansion of this exotic species. At the same time, native species in large numbers will be planted in the area,” he had said, while planting a native sapling.

In the cut root stock method, the root of the plant is cut three inches below the ground with minimum disturbance of the soil. The bush is then lifted up and kept upside down to prevent it from gaining ground again, forest officials said.

The plan to carry out an overall ecological restoration of the Ridge was devised in 2018, but cabinet approval for the project came only in February of 2021. The forest department was unable to start work last year, largely owing to differences in opinion among the expert members a technical committee constituted for the project.

This committee was eventually scrapped, with the project now being executed by the forest and wildlife department, officials said.

They said the native species identified for plantation include hingot, banyan, bahera, cabbage, Chamrod, pilkhan, amaltas, mulberry, palash, native acacia, khair, bitter gourd, gular and harsingar, among others.

Along with these, shrubs such as ghatbod, curry leaves, shatavari, karonda, ashwagandha, and jharbera will also be planted. “We will use the pilot project to determine which native species are able to flourish alongside the vilayati kikar,” the forest official quoted above said.

The other components of the ecological restoration plan include incorporating parks in the vicinity to create a large green grid, with butterfly and bird safaris also planned for the future.

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