Tamil Nadu’s Long Fight Against Prosopis juliflora

Published in Mongabay

Mar 29, 2023

The Prosopis juliflora plant. Photo by Dinesh Valke, Flickr.

There is a concerted effort by the state and judiciary to get rid of a water-guzzling invasive species that is a clear threat to local biodiversity. But this case is complex. 

In the early 1960s, parts of southern Tamil Nadu faced a severe firewood shortage. The answer arrived by helicopter.

Seeds rained down on the treeless landscape of Ramanathapuram district at a time when most communities still heavily relied on firewood for fuel. The then government encouraged local authorities to plant a particular plant species on public lands and beside canals and streams even in neighbouring districts of Sivagangai, Madurai, Dindigul, Theni, Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari.

This was all done in a bid to meet the deficit of firewood. These seeds were of a plant that has since taken root and spread rapidly across many parts in the state — the Prosopis juliflora, known locally by many names such as Bellary jaali, seemai karuvelam, seemai jaali, gando baval, vilayati kikar.



Manjunatha G and Ananya Rao for Hindustan Times.

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