CHENNAI: Heading to the beach for a cool evening of sand, shells and waves, you suddenly come across patches of vegetation. Ever wondered what this is? After the recent increase in the city’s rainfall, there has been a considerable invasion of Ipomoea pes-capra, a vine that grows wild on ocean shores, occupying large tracts of the beach — from Urur Olcott Kuppam to Broken Bridge and the land behind Astalakshmi temple all the way to Neelankarai.
Some call it an alien invasive species native of Florida and now spread across Asia, while others say the weed is a native species and good for beach sustainability. But a section of beach goers is not happy with its presence. They are putting pressure on officials at the Corporation of Chennai (CoC) to act, as it affects the picturesque beach front view.
“They are invasive and spreading at an alarming rate. Varieties of hyacinth and weed grass are spotted even at prominent beaches like Besant Nagar. I don’t know what good they bring. As far as I am concerned, they help mosquitoes to breed and prevent the public from occupying large stretches of the beach,” said Madan Lal, a businessman and resident of Besant Nagar.
Another frequent beach goer, Hemalatha, argued they caused a lot of inconvenience and danger to the public. “People throng Besant Nagar and these species could house dangerous reptiles,” she claims. However, D Narasimhan, HoD (Botany), Madras Christian College (MCC) has a different view.
“In the name of keeping the beach clean, we can’t sacrifice the elements that keep the beach functional. In the first place, I don’t agree that Ipomoea pes-capra and other species are invasive and alien. They are native and act as sand binders, and stop soil and beach erosion. In times of extreme events, they act as barriers. Without understanding this, people are pressing the corporation,” Narasimhan said.
K Balaraman, zonal officer, CoC, zone-XIII (Adyar), said the health department of the CoC inspects the beach stretches occupied by these weeds and removes them periodically.
“People complain that they breed mosquitoes. These species are resilient to several forms of chemical and biological control. We keep removing them once in a month,” he said.