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  • Context (TH): The Kerala government issued an order allowing the Kerala Forest Development Corporation (KFDC) to plant eucalyptus trees for its financial sustenance in 2024-2025.
  • As per the 2021 Kerala’s eco-restoration policy, its cultivation (including acacia and wattle) is not suitable for the environment as it results in “depletion of natural forests.”
  • Activists alleged that permitting the planting of eucalyptus trees contravened the policy’s aspirations and undermined efforts to beat back invasive species and mitigate human-animal conflicts.

About Eucalyptus tree

  • Eucalyptus trees, also known as gum trees, nilgiri trees, or safeda, are species of large flowering trees and shrubs with aromatic leaves and attractive smooth peeling bark.
  • These trees are native to Australia and Tasmania. In India, it was first planted around 1790 by the ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, in his palace garden near Bangalore.

Uses of eucalyptus trees

  • Eucalyptus wood is hard and difficult to bend, making it ideal for flat furniture.
  • Since the wood is heavy, it is, therefore, good as firewood and for making charcoal.

Criticism of Eucalyptus

  • The ban on eucalyptus has emerged as part of the campaign against invasive species.
  • Eucalyptus is water-intensive and reduces available water for other species by effectively out-competing them.
  • In arid areas, it consequently suppresses different plant life, coupled with high water demand, reduces soil moisture, prevents groundwater recharge, and can reduce local water tables. This is worsened by a high transpiration rate indicative of the inefficient use of water.
  • Eucalyptus does not promote the building of humus. It does not contribute to the soil’s long-term fertility resulting in an overall nutrient impoverishment of the soil.
  • Eucalyptus is toxic due to its allelopathic properties, which reduce other plant life by restricting germination of other species and is also detrimental to soil micro and macrofauna.
  • Allelopathic species suppress their progeny and other plant life by leaching chemical inhibitors from the trees’ roots or litter.
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