In an attempt to shore up the green cover at Ludhianas Mattewara reserve,the forest department has begun replacing the traditional eucalyptus trees with Shisham and Acacia ones instead. The forest cover,spread across 1755 hectares,has remained static in the last few years despite repeated plantation drives. Forest officials have found that the cause for this is that on an average around 6,000 eucalyptus trees are dying every year because of drought like conditions in the forest reserve.
Between the years 2003 and 2005 alone,the damage was huge and around 8,000 eucalyptus trees had died annually. A team from the Forest Reserve of India (FRI) Dehradun had also come to find out the reason for the sudden deaths of the trees. But so far no report has come in this context. So to be on the safe side,we have changed the plantation system. To balance out the loss of eucalyptus trees,we planted 50,000 saplings of Shisham and Acacia last year while this year it will be more than double that, said range officer Mattewara Khuswinder Singh.
As per records available with the forest department,around 1.5 lakh eucalyptus trees are left in the Mattewara forest now and the number has not been increasing in the past few years despite many new plantations being done.
Delayed winters and prolonged summers have caused drought-like conditions here,leading to depletion of the water table and hence damaging the eucalyptus trees. In the last 2-3 years,however,good rainfall has happened and it has helped the water table to rise,but still the number of eucalyptus trees is static,so the forest department decided to start new plantations, added Khushwinder.
Other tree plantation drives are also in danger. Singh said the forest department tried planting saplings on link roads and near agricultural land,but said farmers fearing that the trees would block sunlight to their crops began uprooting the saplings.