“The people from these dry regions depend on selling Seemai Karuvelam as fuel for their livelihood. One needs to consider providing alternative livelihood for people before deciding on removing the trees completely,” observed a Division Bench comprising justices R Sudhakar and V M Velumani.
In 2013, about 10,000 Karuvelam trees in Madurai were found to be the major reason for water scarcity and depletion of ground water level in the city. The Madurai municipal corporation banned cultivation of Karuvelam on the lands. They had also warned that if the owners do not uproot them then the cost of the uprooting work will be taken from the land owners, apart from having to pay a penalty.
Karuvelam trees are present in Madurai, Dindigul, Theni, Virudhunagar, Sivaganga, Ramanathapuram, Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, and Kanyakumari districts in Tamil Nadu. The cost to remove all Karuvelam trees is pegged at Rs 1,500 crore, according to The Times of India report.
A.R. Shanmugam, President, Salem District Agricultural Production Committee told The Hindu that they have decided to employ the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme workers to help uproot these trees.
The agriculture department has already eradicated the ‘Karuvelam’ weed in the government seed farms in the Salem district. In August 2015, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court also asked the state government to form a committee including the Chief Secretary, Forest Department and Public Works Department secretaries, to structure a plan for the eradication of Karuvelam trees grown on river beds and other areas in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu.