Tree pests

By Baldev S Chauhan
Published: Sunday 15 June 2003

After destroying huge tracts of forests in Himachal Pradesh, tree pests are all set to create havoc in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, reveals a recent report of the Himalayan Forest Research Institute (hfri), Shimla.

Many shisham trees of Punjab have already fallen prey to two fungi that are commonly found in the forests of Bilaspur, Una, Hamirpur and Kangra districts of Himachal Pradesh. In the past five years, large chunks of trees have been wiped out in the state. In Lahaul and Spiti, 3,000 willow trees have dried up, with their sap being sucked by aphids. Another pest is threatening kail and deodar trees of the central parts of the state.

Experts say global warming has made environmental conditions conducive for the growth of the pests. Other causes include monoculture farming and a decrease in the water table. "Since the trees are quite old, their natural resistance to pests has decreased," says Surinder Kumar, director of hfri.

To combat the attack, the state forest department plans to cut down 1,400 trees in Shimla district. "But a more comprehensive plan should be evolved," asserts Lal Singh, a scientist with Himalaya Research Group, a non-governmental organisation in Shimla.

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