The forest department has instructed the Indian Institute of Technology - Madras to stop removal of Prosopis juliflora (seemai karuvelamaram trees) from its premises, directly countering an order by the Tahsildar of the Guindy Taluk asking the campus authorities to cut down the trees, reports The Hindu. The directions were given to the college authorities by the forest department to ensure that the endangered black buck species, that has made the campus its home, is not affected.
According to the news report, campus authorities began felling the trees after the registrar received a letter from the Tahsildar of Guindy Taluk on February 10 asking that the invasive tree species be removed. The college, however, told the Tahsildar that it has reservation about the order and that it would affect the animals that sought shelter under these trees. The Tahsildar however gave a deadline to the college authorities to complete the task, so the tree felling went ahead despite the college’s protest.
“We had communicated to the officials that the campus is home to several animals that benefit from the shade provided by the species, especially in the light of the trees lost due to Cyclone Vardah,” said David Koilpillai, Dean, Planning, IIT-M to The Hindu.
The Guindy national park, Raj Bhavan and IIT-M used to form a wildlife corridor. With a wall coming up around the institute, some of the wildlife remained inside the campus. But faced with deadline pressures, the authorities were forced to cut down the trees. The Collector, tahsildar and their representatives were reportedly visiting the campus daily to check on the rate of removal.
“We are removing seemai karuvelam close to the roads and the main entrance. We had to use a JCB to pull out the roots that had in some places gone 15 feet deep. We explained our concern that the blackbuck depends on the species and we need tree cover for the animals, especially in the aftermath of Cyclone Vardah. So far, we have not touched the sensitive areas,” Mr. David Koilpillai explained to The Hindu.
However, forest officials have now intervened, even though IIT-M is technically not on forest land, in an effort to protect the wildlife present there.