Chennai: Hundreds of varieties of terrestrial and aquatic flora species, native to Chennai region, are fast depleting, indicating rapid environmental degradation.
While some have struggled to survive in the reserve forests of Chennai, a few have become extinct, say naturalists.
Talking on the sidelines of Chennai Water Forum, project leader from Care Earth Trust, Muthu Karthik, told Deccan Chronicle, “Many wetland plants abundant in the city are now confined to the reserve forests. A total of two varieties of Sundew plants and some species of Bladderworts are dwindling.”
The scenario does not leave out edible plants either, as a native plant – Garcinia - which was largely seen in the city is now categorized as ‘rare’. “Garcinia has high medicinal properties. Though the related plants are noticed in Tirunelveli, it has almost vanished in the city,” said Karthik.
Care Earth Trust has recorded few Garcinia species at IIT-Madras, and is developing them. The devastating floods of November- December 2015 was a blessing in disguise for the flora species as certain species thrived near the gateway communities of the outskirts. “Water lilies developed drastically near the residences and IT parks after the floods as their roots and seeds would have remained existed,” said Karthik.
This phenomenon subtly underlines of how wetlands are encroached to construct residential communities and industries. A total of three species of water lilies (Karuneithal, Aambal, Sevvambal) that has references in old Tamil literature managed to live in the city’s habitat.
Chennai, in the recent past, is facing another strange crisis due to the intervention of invasive species, which acts as destructors to indigenous varieties. “Water Hyacinth (spread at all wetlands including Pallikaranai), Salvinia (found at stagnated water bodies including Ambattur Lake) obstructs hydrological flow, sunlight and oxygen – thus a threat to aquatic animals. Detrimental to ecology, they suppress indigenous biodiversity and encroach the habitat,” said Karthik.