Wildlife & Biodiversity

Crows drop dead eating insects killed by pesticides in Bihar's Purnea

The birds being scavengers, are an important part of the area's ecology, they say

 
By C K Manoj
Last Updated: Monday 03 February 2020
Photo: C K Manoj

The recent deaths of crows in Bihar due to consumption of insects killed by pesticides have alarmed environmentalists. Over a hundred crows and other birds have died in Purnea district over the past one week, according to villagers.

Farmers in the area use highly toxic pesticides excessively on their maize crops to kill the deadly Fall Army Worm (FAW), according to animal husbandry officials. Birds such as crows are dying after eating insects killed by pesticides sprayed on the crops, they said.

“We found traces of pesticide in the carcasses during post mortem,” Ravindra Nath Chaudhary, district animal husbandry officer, told Down To Earth on February 3, 2020. The autopsies was conducted by a team of three doctors led by him, Chaudhary added.

The crow carcasses as well the post mortem report have been sent to a laboratory in Kolkata for further investigation, Chaudhary said.

Environmentalists in the region have expressed concern over the development. “Crows save us from various deadly diseases such as tuberculosis as they are scavengers. But people are hardly bothered,” Arvind Mishra, environmentalist and founder of the Mandar Nature Club in Bhagalpur, said.

The farmers’ excessive use of deadly pesticides was disturbing the ecological balance, Mishra said.

He urged farmers to instead opt for Vermicompost or cow dung as fertilisers. “They are not only good for our health but also not harmful to other life forms,” Mishra said. At the same time, he asked farmers to make limited use of germicides and chemicals and properly dispose off bottles containing the toxic liquid.

FAW and maize

Farmers in Bihar’s eastern Seemanchal region, comprising Purnea, Araria, Kishanganj and Katihar districts, primarily grow jute and bananas. A recent shift to maize has brought good dividends.

Seemanchal is now known as Bihar’s ‘maize bowl’ with the crop being cultivated on two lakh hectares in the region. The average annual crop production has been around 22 lakh metric tonnes. But last year, some 40 per cent of the total maize crops were reportedly destroyed by FAW.

FAW first appeared in India in May 2018. Today, it has spread to as many as 14 states, according to a statement by Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar, in Parliament last year.

In Seemanchal, the FAW was so powerful that a small dose of pesticides just did not work, locals said.

“FAW has hit us hard. It is so powerful that even a strong insecticide like Thimet doesn’t work properly. So we have to use a high dose of pesticides to save our crops,” Purnea-based farmer Nikhil Kumar Jha said.

“After continuous FAW attacks, we are again considering reverting back to jute and banana farming,” another farmer, Aditya Jha said. 

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