Less than two decades ago, when land was first acquired by Amrita, this 350-acre campus had a completely different terrain.
Of the 170 countries in the world, a mere 17 countries accommodate more than 70% of the world’s species diversity. The United Nations Environment Program's World Conservation Monitor Center has identified India as "megadiverse" which means India has the responsibility of protecting and conserving its diverse yet delicate ecosystems. Megadiverse countries have exceptional biological diversity with a large number and wide range of endemic species.
The concept of "megadiversity" involves an estimate of the total number of all the organisms in an ecosystem and means that a place has a larger percentage of living species in its territory than what would correspond to it if that percentage were proportional to its surface. This concept stresses the importance of certain countries that have large biological diversity within their borders, many of which are endemic species. It is obvious that organisms are not at the disposal of frontiers but a megadiverse country is one in which a large number of species can be found. Therefore, megadiverse countries possess an invaluable resource.
The Western Ghats, where our campus is nestled, and the Eastern Himalayas are two of the world's 18 "biodiversity hotspots". These are places where exceptional concentrations of endemic species are undergoing exceptional loss of habitat (Myers 1999).
Having a rich biodiversity, the internationally acclaimed Western Ghats ecosystem extends from the mountains to the seashore. The tropical forest of the Western Ghats accommodates an abundant multipurpose species of plants, animals, birds, insects and microorganisms under the evergreen forest cover. These forests are also considered storehouses of economically important plants, many of which are medicinal.
As a result of exploitative deeds due to human interference, these bio reserves are disappearing at an alarming rate. Developmental activities like road construction, urbanization and agriculture have stripped the land of its vegetation along with its animal wealth.
Because of these circumstances, for the sake of posterity, we are committed to practicing and spreading the message of protection for all types of natural resources. Consequently we have ensured that in all our development programs nature and environment are not affected negatively while undertaking many endeavors that restore natural resources.
Trees greatly benefit from good soil and water quality, which are the prime important features of biodiversity development. Leaf and other litter that accumulates under trees create an environment conducive and ideal for the growth of microorganisms, earthworms and other organisms and help maintain soil porosity while enriching soil fertility. Trees also improve habitat development and facilitate sheltering places for epiphytic plants like orchids and lichens, fungus, algae, and animals such as insects, birds, reptiles and other organisms.
Thus, we could transform barren land into a manmade tropical forest in less than 10 years by planting, establishing and conserving more than 1.5 lakh trees in the campus. A veritable collection of more than 200 species of tropical trees, the largest in South India, is maintained and labeled with scientific names. (see Tree Database)
Technology for tree planting and establishment suited for semi-arid climatic conditions has been developed which serves as a model for others in similar circumstances to adapt.
Technology essentials include spreading coconut husk in the bottom of large pits for moisture conservation, adding organic manure and using larger seedlings for planting.
We maintain a large collection of medicinal plants and cultivate them in a 10 acre area. A project on ex-situ cultivation of medicinal plants, financed by National Medicinal Plants Board, Government of India, is in operation. Medicinal plants like Bacopa monierii, Alpinia galangal, Centella asiatica, Withania somnifera, Aloe vera, and others are grown organically. We have documented the medicinal plant wealth of the Ettimadai Campus.
Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University is able to work on the analysis of selected plants like Bacopa Monerii, Centella Asiatica and Moringa for their antioxidants, active principles, trace elements and nutrients
In order to instill a sense of love towards nature and to create a congenial atmosphere for students and the academic community, we have developed on our campus one of the best landscapes in the country. Different styles of landscaping including formal, informal, Japanese, and rockery have been adopted to serve as educative models for those interested in landscaping and gardening.
A nursery has been established with sprinkler and mist irrigation facilities and shade houses for large-scale production of tree seedlings and planting materials of ornamental and medicinal plants.