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Weeding out lantana restores grasslands in Rajasthan

29th September, 2020 Environment

Context: Forest Department has planted 500 saplings in the cleared pockets in Sajjangarh wildlife sanctuary.

About: A special drive to uproot the invasive lantana bushes in the famous Sajjangarh wildlife sanctuary in Rajasthan’s Udaipur district has helped in ecological restoration of grasslands and saved biodiversity. The month-and-a-half-long campaign was accompanied by the plantation of native species on the cleared patches of land.

‘Mission lantana’

What was the need of launching it?

  • The small sanctuary in the southern Aravalli hills, spread over 5.19 sq. km, is home to a large number of herbivores.
  • Lantana camara, a thicket forming shrub, has covered vast tracts of land in the sanctuary, stopping the natural light and nutrition for flora and fauna.
  • The toxic substance in its foliage and ripe berries affected the animals, while its expansion stopped the natural growth of grass and other shrubs.
  • With the herbivores not getting sufficient forage, the prey base for carnivorous animals was declining, leading to ecological disturbances in the food chain.
  • Cause unease among the herds of spotted deer with the gradual shrinking of their natural habitat.

About mission:

  • The drive involved collective efforts and ‘shram daan’ (voluntary physical work) by the forest officials, police personnel, wildlife lovers, representatives of voluntary groups and local villagers.
  • The volunteers used hand gloves and an equipment, monkey jack, for removing the toxic flowery shrubs.
  • After 45 days, about 10 hectares of land has been cleared.
  • The Forest Department, which has planted over 500 saplings in the cleared pockets, plans to take up sowing of grass and a variety of alternate plant seeds as the vegetation useful for herbivores.
  • The drive should be taken up in the rainy season for the next three to four years to make a permanent impact.
  • “The correct ecological approach would be the removal from top to bottom in hilly areas and centre to periphery in the plains.”

About lantana

  • First introduced in 1807, had spread to wildlife reserves, river banks and the Project Tiger areas where it had obliterated native grass and reduced biodiversity.
  • In some regions, the plant has made inroads into pastures and shrunk the cattle grazing areas, affecting the livelihood of villagers.
  • Natural grass has started growing in the Sajjangarh sanctuary and the spotted deer and other herbivores can be seen foraging on the vegetation.

Sajjangarh Wildlife Sanctuary

  • It is located in Udaipur District of Rajasthan in the southern Aravalli Hills.
  • The area constituted the hunting grounds surrounding the Monsoon Palace, used by the Maharanas of Udaipur in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • The area was made a wildlife sanctuary in 1987.
  • In 2017, an area of 28.7 square kilometres around the boundary of the sanctuary was declared to be an Eco-Sensitive Zone by the Government of India.