Project Ecolake

As a high school student, I was part of an important reforestation effort not far from the largest water body on the western outskirts of Pondicherry, India called Ousteri (or Oussudu), which we simply referred to as the Lake. This restoration effort started some 30 years ago with only a handful of people (who eventually became our ecology professors), concentrated on the arid landscape surrounding the Lake area starting with check-dams for water run-off  and the planting of nurse species. Their dedicated effort has yielded some excellent results given the fact that the site is nested in a highly fragmented landscape which has undergone a considerable human impact since the colonial times under the French. A brief report on this project is available here.

This continuing fragmentation can be observed not far away from the restoration site where the illegal mining of soil (due to corruption which is rife in India) for construction purposes is radically changing the surrounding landscape…

Add to this the illegal dumping of garbage produced by the ever-growing and increasingly consumer oriented society of modern India…although some hope is not far away with upcoming organizations like Shuddham and PondyCAN. Also, with the ongoing infrastructure boom in this country, it has become fashionable to build colleges in scenic places. For instance, this one below sprang up right beside the Ousteri lake despite having been declared as an Ecologically Sensitive Area by the Forest department which imposes limits on human activities in its surroundings.

But the most visible impact on the Lake itself can be seen by the diminishing number of migratory birds greatly due to leisure boating which is on the rise. Although it is extremely difficult to move about the Lake, with the appearance of an invasive weed which can pin down an excellent swimmer or a boat’s rudder, it has not deterred the Pondy Tourism Department to forcibly promote this activity, complete with a tower for bird watching!

Sometimes, I kind of feel, aren’t we simply undoing Nature’s laces ? And on a more positive, we may be able to tighten some of them in a different way…looking at what has been achieved since the last 30 years…

Further information…

To my knowledge, there have been only two other restoration efforts in this region. The first, which has similar beginnings as the Ecolake project, also favoured a reforestation approach using what is known of the regions undisturbed flora, termed as the Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF) (here is a brief list of the “climax” vegetation for this region).

The second effort was conducted as part of the Post Tsunami Environment Impact report by an active local NGO known as the Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning (FERAL) (Click here for a 37Mb pdf file containing the details of the restoration efforts undertaken by Dilip. P. Venugopal and collaborators).

last updated on 21.03.2011
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