Sholas of Ootacamund

    24-Jan-2023
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Akham Bonbirdhwaja Singh
Contd from previous issue
The Nilgiris, like Manipur and North East is a haven of biodiversity having a number of unique and endemic species (it was declared a biospehere reserve uncer MAB programme of UN in the past). Here in case of Ooty and Nilgiris, during the present drying of trees, the Sholas are least affected by the factors whatever that affected the Eucalyptus and Black Wattle. A good news is that the area under Eucalyptus in Ooty have been drastically brought down in the last few decades. Still, it could be a big challenge for the authority to replace all the dead trees with new plantations now.
The Sholas and Todas had similar fate, the onslaught of colonial empire and commercial expansion has almost wiped out these two indigenous entities of Ooty. The Todas are I think have become near extinct, the tribes which solely lived in these hills and valleys for almost two milleniums (since 3 centuries BC) are disappearing from here. Only thing visible now is the replicas of their beautiful huts which Tourism Department have constructed near Toda Valley for the purpose of tourists. A few huts are near old Ooty and near Botanical Garden. There is also a move to reconstruct the Toda huts and their settlements, but there are too few Todas left, many have gone outside their community too. Toda huts are very popular with tourists and they would love to take a few selfies in front of such huts. But I do not think that they would ever come back. The Sholas too are not coming back. But this time when they are replanting the blank areas due to dying of Eucalyptus, I am sure that more of Shola species would be used; may not be for restoring the Sholas but for reclamation of affected areas which would certainly add to the beauty of the queen of hills.
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[1] Black Wattle was introduced in Manipur too and remnants are still found in Duncan Park in Ukhrul District. The Tadubi Maram Reserved Forest was constituted with the primary aim of raising black wattle plantation with the State Darbar approving tanning of animal hides for production of leather in Manipur. However, there is no record of significant progress in this regards.
[2] Witches Broom Syndrome is the phenomenon in a plant; when the leading shoot or apical bud is killed and plant is drying up, the survival instinct of the plant gives up multiple branches just below the point of attack giving a broomlike appearance hence the name. It is caused by many factors; pests, diseases, genetic alterations and adverse environmental conditions.