Agri Business

Advancing dry climate over cardamom hills causes alarm

Vinson Kurian Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on August 09, 2011




The Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) has raised an alarm over the advancing dry climate in the Cardamom Hill Reserves (CHR) in the high ranges of eastern Kerala, otherwise known as original cardamom country.

A special KSBB report attributed this to the loss of forest cover in the hills bordering Tamil Nadu and loss of canopy in the plantations.

LOCAL PARTICIPATION

It has also proposed that any rearguard action aimed at conserving the vulnerable should ensure active participation of specially constituted biodiversity management committees in association with both Government and non-Government agencies.

Climate change could seriously affect the economy of the CHR and the unique ecosystem, in turn affecting the climate of the entire central Kerala.

Sustainability of cardamom as a staple cash crop is at stake, with KSBB finding a cumulative ‘forcing' from the looming climate and land use change, logging and indiscriminate use of chemicals.

The ‘State's own cardamom that launched a thousand ships' and received special concessions from Governments right from the year 1822 is facing an existential threat.

LOCALISED CLIMATE

CHR would perhaps be a typical localised climate change model, making it possible to assess the changing situation on a micro scale in the context of tropical forest ecosystem. Scientific studies in this area are called for, the KSBB report said.

It is impossible to extend or shift the area of cultivation of cardamom as it is endemic and location specific to Udumbanchola (CHR) or the traditional growing areas, the report said.

It regretted that intensive cardamom cultivation has been taken up as part of what it described as an ‘unsustainable path of development.'

Environmental and ecological degradation has already lead local people to wonder if cardamom cultivation can be environmentally sustainable under the given circumstances.

The onslaught on the ecosystem in utter disregard of lease conditions and environmental regulations has made them to even denounce cardamom as the ‘destroyer-in-chief' of CHR.

Loss of the evergreen species has been causing climatic changes locally affecting rainfall, reducing the effective rainy days from 159 to 136. This is feared to have altered the local climatic conditions and affected productivity of cardamom.

Also, the rainfall has changed from continuous drizzling (most ideal for cardamom) to occasional heavy downpour.

This has led to uprooting of grass and erosion of top soil, denuding the hills and bringing the soil and mud to the reservoirs reducing its capacity.

Change in temperatures could bring about catastrophic changes to the entire area, which could turn the once verdant tropical rain forests to barren rocky area, the report said.

Change in the micro-climatic environment puts massive stress on this unusual eco- climatic zone.

Mitigation strategies have to be evolved urgently, which should give equal stress to biodiversity conservation and strict control of change of land use pattern.

The KSBB report cited mainly the vulnerable rich biodiversity outside regular forests contiguous to the eastern, northern and southern boundaries of the CHR and other landscapes in the plantations inside the CHR.

Published on August 09, 2011

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