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Exotic species killing local trees, say green activists

Forest department to replant indigenous saplings on hills following objections raised by environmentalists in city

After citizens and environmentalists raised concerns over the planting of gliricidia sepium trees, which they said were hampering the growth of other indigenous trees on hills, the forest department now plans to conduct an inspection and replant native species in their place. 

Eco experts allege that gliricidia, a bush-like tree with sprouts and no single trunk, which belongs to the family of Fabaceae plants, had been planted in thousands mostly on the hills, including Vetal, Parvati, Bamburda, among others, long ago by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the forest department without taking into consideration the ecological repercussions. 

"These exotic species inhibit the growth of other fruiting plants in its vicinity, once they start flowering and fruiting. As their seeds spread over a large area and germinate very fast it becomes difficult to control them," said Nandini Devi Pratinidhi, an environmentalist. 

Environmentalists said warm weather was conducive to the growth of gliricidia trees and they had the capacity to kill other plants that grow close to them. The naturalists alleged the trees on the hills had been planted as directed by the forest department, which had given lease to the civic authority. The PMC had, however, failed to maintain the green cover as they had planted exotic species like gulmohar and subabul, which are non-fruiting. 

"We are in the process of creating a list of trees and plants and grow more indigenous trees, including mango, gooseberry, jamun, karanj, umbhar, among others, and stop this current mono-plantation. But nothing has been decided," said a forest department official.

The environmentalists said even though several eco bodies had tried to undo the damage by planning to uproot gliricidia and subabul, there was a fear it would lead to soil erosion if done in large numbers. Ketki Ghate of Pune Tree Watch, an environmental body, said that though they were creating awareness on the issue, no concrete action was being taken. 

"We earlier worked with the forest department and tried to replace the exotic trees with native ones. But it was a tedious process, and if too much digging was done, then it could have resulted in soil erosion," she said. Naresh Zurmure, chief garden superintendent, PMC, remained unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts.

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