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This top police cop attacks Lantana grass-land in Udaipur

They tended to disobey her at first instance! However, when they saw her leading from front, they realised it was a different business for entire khaki-force! So a platoon-strength of policemen and police-women daily can be observed uprooting the invasive Lantana grass inside the Sajjangarh Sanctuary located in western fringe of Udaipur city. It is happening for past  several weeks. Harsh Vardhan sheds light on latest developments in this context

This top police cop attacks Lantana grass-land in Udaipur
Lantana flowers emanate pungent odour and if you inhale more, you are likely to develop a strange head-ache.

Ms. Bonita Thakur is Inspector General of Police in Rajasthan and presently posted at Udaipur. A determined person, she wanted things to happen in right perspective by serving to a social cause. Here, it is nature conservation. Since it was not easy to wrestle with tall stems of this grass — they bear tiny thorns and flowers emanate pungent odour, an iron-rod was especially designed and got done by a local black-smith. It is all possible once you decided to do! Some citizens and retired forest officers also joined in this campaign.

Lantana spreads from North to South

First introduced in India in 1807, Lantana has spread from the Himalayas to the southernmost parts of the country. It is capable to outcompete native species, leading to a reduction in biodiversity. It can also cause problems if it invades agricultural areas as a result of its toxicity to livestock as well as its ability to form dense thickets which, if left unchecked, can greatly reduce the productivity of farmland.  

Invasive weeds modify elephant behaviour

Gaius Wilson (Bournemouth University), Monica M. Gruber and Phil J. Jester (both from Victoria University, Wellington) did a study, “Foraging Relationships Between Elephants and Lantana camara Invasion in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, India”. They stated:  “Our results indicate that L. camara appears capable of modifying feeding rates of elephants, likely through a loss of grass areas due to L. camara invasion. Experimental work is needed to test for causal relationships among the variables we measured, to enhance our understanding of how invasive weeds modify elephant behavior.” 

This top police cop attacks Lantana grass-land in Udaipur
The active group that uproots invasive Lantana grass in Sajjangarh Sanctuary, led by Bonita Thakur, Inspector General of Police in Rajasthan (in blue shirt), (photo by Dr. Satish Sharma)

Lantana invades all prominent Project Tiger Reserves

Lantana has invaded almost all prominent Project Tiger Reserves in India eg.,  Corbett, Ranthambhore, Sariska. Even the key habitats of rare and endangered species in the Western Ghats are enveloped by it. In Himachal Pradesh, the fast spread of lantana is adversely impacting not only wildlife, cattle, medicinal and other native plant species but also affecting the livelihoods of a large number of local people.  

It shrinks areas of cattle grazing in J&K

In the Shivalik foothills of Jammu and Kashmir also the lantana shrub has been making inroads into pastures, thereby shrinking the areas for cattle grazing and like Himachal Pradesh, affecting the livelihood of people. The Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change (MoEFCC) is aware of it and is in process of setting up a new mechanism to get rid of this invasive grass. However, actual implementation will rest with State’s forest authorities. Why are they shy each time they are tasked with such challenges.

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