Land Use in Kerala

Pattern of land use can be divided into two major types, that is, forest and non-forest areas. The total area covered by forest is 11125.59 km square. Forest area contains several protected areas like wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve as well plantation of teak, eucalyptus, pines, acacia, wattle and few other miscellaneous species. These monoculture plantations have caused the destruction of lots of plants and animal species, many of which are restricted to specific ecosystems like the sholas, grass lands, riverine vegetation and so on. Overall quality of the nature and environment is also degraded or lost, along with depletion or disturbances to habitat ranges, movement corridors of wildlife and endangering or termination of their population.

Tea plantation is another monoculture system seen in the high altitude forested area of the State. It extends to an area of about 36131 ha. The area being located in the crest of the Ghats, the forest type which is very badly affected, is the southern wet Temperate Forests or the Sholas, whose extent is only about 70 km square. They are unique with several endemic and endangered species like the rhododendrons, disjunctively distributed in the South Indian Hills from the Himalayan region. Shola grassland ecosystem is the only habitat of the endemic wild goat Nilgiri Tahr. Most of the rivers originate from the Shola forests. Therefore tea plantations are actually detrimental to the environment and biodiversity of the region and it also damages the vegetation types and biodiversity of the whole State by way of reducing the stream flow and polluting the water courses and water bodies by the discharge of residues of chemical fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides used to grow the tea crop. Coffee plantations, covering an area of about 84115 ha are also grown at the expense of natural vegetation and pristine environment.

The non-forest land area of the State include mainly cultivable and non cultivable area. The cultivated area of about 2761094 ha. are mainly occupied by paddy (228938 ha.) and tree crops like coconut (818812 ha.), rubber etc. The cultivation of rubber extending to an area of 512045 ha. in midlands and also in the hilly uplands, has drastically affected the nature and biodiversity of the region by the extermination of several medicinal and other plant species even from the highly fragmented homesteads. Pineapple is yet another crop recently grown extensively in the State, for better and quick economic returns replacing paddy and coconut, which of late, has become non profitable and labour intensive. Cultivation of improved varieties of paddy, mango, jack fruit, plantains etc. is yet another tendency in the State. The Vechoor cow, paddy strains like chettadi (cheradi), thavalakkannan, cheera, vellari, veluthakazhama etc., several varieties of Mango, Jack fruit, Drumstick plantain varieties like Karpooravalli and Kadali, Pepper varieties, Tapioca varieties etc are all now replaced by laboratory evolved strains, less adapted to the environment and having only very narrow genetic base and manipulated short life span. This has led to the genetic erosion of most of the native varieties and their wild relatives. The far reaching consequence of this cannot be estimated or understood at present. The high density of population and the diversion of land for non agricultural purposes like construction of houses, flats, commercial complexes etc. have environmental impacts on this green strip of peninsular India.

Great quantity of pineapples

great quantity of pineapples