My Husband And Other Animals — The Endangered Scrub Jungle
November 19, 2010: I often wonder what the forests around Chengalpet looked like before they were cut down to make way for agriculture centuries ago. When we first moved here, botanists from Auroville drew up an inventory of the trees and plants found in the adjacent forest.
Surprisingly, the list included satin wood, ebony and bullet wood. These were huge timber trees that ought to have been 15 to 20 mt high, but were no more than stunted bushes — the result of continuous hacking for fodder and firewood.
For much of my life, I had heard the environs of Guindy National Park and Madras Christian College referred as the ‘scrub forest'. It didn't inspire respect such as ‘rainforest' or ‘deciduous forest', but seemed more like a poor country cousin. I assumed that the forest around our farm was ‘scrub' until the botanists called it the Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest, and mentioned that this was even more endangered than rainforests. It is estimated that today only one per cent of this forest remains. That's so typical — we fret about distant rainforests when the forest under our noses is in worse shape!
Since it was only a Reserve Forest, not a Sanctuary or National Park, it seemed to be getting the short end of the stick. Armed with long lists of trees, reptiles, mammals and birds and with all the zealousness of a new father, Rom lobbied the Forest Department to provide greater protection to a 40-km swathe of forests from Vandalur to Palar. Except for a few gaps, the forest was nearly contiguous. Greater protection meant declaring a Sanctuary and the officials demurred; there were too many villages and people in the way, they said.
Around that time, there were some Joint Forestry Management funds available, and the Forest Department included this area under the project. The bare-bones of the scheme were to wean people off the forest by providing gas cylinders and milch cows, and growing fodder trees in the village commons. Two years later, the change was dramatic. Read the full report here.
Source: Janaki Lenin, The Hindu.