Chennai: While Tamil Nadu is in the grip of drought, students in Lawrence School, Ooty, are restoring grasslands by planting a certain species of grass that are known to help improve the groundwater table. However, some Eucalyptus trees that consume a lot of water will have to be removed.
The school has already removed shrubs from five acres of land and its students are planting a species known as Tussock grass, whose deep roots, experts say, hold a lot of water that can help revive streams and recharge the groundwater table.
"The grass will provide lots of water, but those trees took away water, leading to scarcity," says Elizabeth Philip, a Class 8 student. Ishani, who's is from the same class, says, "It's lots of fun to dirty our hands and work for the environment."
The school in consultation with the Tamil Nadu Forest Department plans to gradually restore its 700-acre forest area into "shola" grasslands - a mosaic of mountain vegetation found in high-altitude regions. That would mean removing some 5,000 exotic trees.
Godwin Vasanth Bosco, an ecologist who guides the school, handpicked this variety of grass and raised them at his nursery. "The springs will be recharged as opposed to water running off," Mr Bosco says.
While the school alumni are also supporting the project, it is a good learning experience for the students too. The school's head Sangita Chima says the students will feel a sense of ownership of the grasslands as their effort has gone into reviving it. "If everything goes well, we will not have to see water scarcity ever in the Nilgiris," she says.
Samyuktha Karthikeyan, a Class 12 student who loves wildlife, says the grasslands may help reduce human-animal conflict in the long run.