Wayanad: If indications are true, then Kerala is in for a drought. At least six districts of the state — Kasaragod, Wayanad, Palakkad, Thrissur, Idukki and Pathanamthitta—are already in the grip of water shortage with some districts showing some acute signs. The reservoirs of the Kerala State Electricity Board Limited show an unprecedented low water level. From all indications, Wayanad is the worst-affected district as of now.
Indicating changing climate and rise in temperature in the hilly district, one of the most ecologically-sensitive areas of the state, trees that usually grew and birds that flourished in warm climates now flourish in Wayanad, experts say. The presence of alien invasive plants has been noticed long ago but the condition started worsening in the last few decades. “Trees such as coconut and rubber were not fit to grow here earlier,” said V.V. Sivan, senior scientist, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Puthur Vayal. “The flesh of coconuts rarely got firm in the earlier climate of Wayanad. Now, they are growing as if in any other district, just like rubber trees are doing. The appearance of birds like cuckoos and peacocks was also rare in Wayanad. Though peacocks were seen in places like Muthanga, recently, they were spotted in the interiors also.”
Dr Sivan said nearly 30 new kinds of plants that usually grew in warm climate were found recently in Wayanad. The presence of trees such as teak had increased the temperature inside the forests. One of the other worrying signs was the mass death of earthworms that was reported recently. Experts from the Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS), Ambalavayal, say this is also a worrying phenomenon, and would have been caused by the increase in the temperature of the subsoil. Since the soil of Wayanad belongs to the Deccan plateau that has a vertisol soil, the variations in temperature affect this area, more than in other parts. In Kerala, only Wayanad has this type of highly sensitive soil .
“There should be an immediate ecological restoration on a war footing to prevent drought in this area,” said RARS associate director Dr P. Rajendran. “This ecological upset has been caused by massive deforestation and mining of rocks. The temperature in Wayanad has increased from five to 10 degree celsius in the last three years.” RARS last week conducted a study into the texture of the soil after reports about earthworms dying. Dr Raveendran said that the soil was still good, but the vertisol soil tended to expand and contract easily unlike other soil in extreme climatic conditions.