UPSC PRELIMS 2020: ‘Planting of exotics harmful to Nilgiris’

‘Planting of exotics harmful to Nilgiris

Topic: ‘Planting of exotics harmful to Nilgiris’

Topic in Syllabus: Ecology & Environment

‘Planting of exotics harmful to Nilgiris


A Coonoor-based trust proposes to plant more than 10,000 trees in the Nilgiris. However, there is a problem: almost all of them are exotic flora — from avenue trees such as jacaranda, podocarpus, pine and bottlebrush.

Challenges of planting exotic trees:

  • Exotic trees such as pine, podocarpus and cypress trees have a huge impact on soil chemistry on the ground where they are planted, preventing native grass, plants and herbs from taking root underneath the canopy.
  • It has a knock-on effect on wildlife resulting in their vacating the areas.
  • When exotics take root in a particular area they increase the water demand in that region, impacting not just the Nilgiris but other districts further downstream that rely on rivers emanating from the hills.
  • Growing exotic trees in the Nilgiris is counterproductive to conservation and ensuring biodiversity.
  • The roots of these trees are very shallow and the trees can be uprooted by high velocity winds and heavy rain, which characterise the monsoons in the Nilgiris.

Why Exotic trees:

  • Forest Department has only enough native trees to afforest their reserve forests, so they do not give out any saplings to private individuals.
  • They lead to better soil stability of the slopes on which they are planted.

Way Forward:

  • The government should come up with a policy that stipulates that only native flora should be planted in public spaces in the Nilgiris because of its ecological significance and its unique biodiversity.
  • There is need to have a better understanding of the best ecological restoration practices that can be implemented when working in a landscape of the Nilgiris.
  • Large-scale planting of exotics in ecologically sensitive areas must be discouraged.
  • Shola tree species requires a lot of maintenance post-planting to ensure their survival. Maintaining a Shola nursery is indeed very difficult as the trees are very slow in growing.


Sample Question:

Consider the following statements :
1. Sholas are patches of deciduous forests in Nilgiri Hills.
2. Sholas are characterized by the presence of dense forests.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct ?
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: d