'Livelihood of people should be considered before eradicating Karuvelam trees'

Livelihood of people depending on Karuvelam trees are more important and has to be considered.

Madurai:Madras High Court today opined that before taking up total eradication of 'Karuvelam' trees which caused extensive damage to the ecosystem, livelihood of people in southern districts,who depend on it, would have to be considered.

Justices R Sudhakar and Velumani who were hearing MDMK leader Vaiko arguing the case agreed that the trees need to be eradicated. At the same time alternative arrangements for livelihood of the people would also have to be arranged.

"The people from these dry regions depend on selling Seemai Karuvelam as fuel wood for their livelihood. One needs to consider providing alternative livelihood for people before deciding on removing the trees completely", they said.

Vaiko had filed a PIL seeking a direction to the state government and 13 Collectors to remove the trees, saying it posed major threat to water conservation and environment.

Based on his plea, the Court had directed the Chief secretary and Collectors to file an Action Taken Report.

It had also expressed dissatisfaction over the ATR and felt that these trees should have been totally uprooted in the five districts where they posed a major threat.

P L Valliappan, PWD Chief Engineer, Water Resources Department, today submitted that these trees are grown in 68,482 hectares (in tanks, river courses, dam water spread area, supply channel) in Madurai, Dindigul, Theni, Sivaganga, Virudhunagar, Ramanathapuram, Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, and Kaniyakumari districts.

WRD proposed to remove 2,06,009 hectares, which would cost Rs 809 crore and expected revenue of Rs 120 crore by selling the trees.

The government pleader also submitted the ATR of Madurai, Theni, Sivaganga, Virudhunagar, and Karur district to the bench.

After examining the document, Justice Sudhakar suggested removal of the Seemai Karuvelam from its roots.

To the court's concern over livelihood, Vaiko said the trees should be uprooted completely to prevent groundwater depletion, which would affect the livelihood of thousands of farmers in southern districts.

Vaiko requested the bench to direct the Tirunelveli Collector to allow him remove the trees from his native village Kalingapatti with participation of people.

He said his similar initiative to deslit the village tank had been appreciated by former President A P J Abdul Kalam.

After listening to his argument, the bench directed to submit the ATR of all 13 collectors during the next hearing on October 15.

The court assured Vaiko to consider this representation during the next hearing.