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Kolkata’s neem trees face fungal threat, experts point to global warming – CNBCTV18

Neem trees in Kolkata are in trouble. It has been noticed that over the last one month, neem trees here have been dying — first the tree’s apex leaves get defoliated, then they start yellowing, followed by wilting and finally decay. Experts diagnosed this as a kind of fungal infection. The prolonged hot spell may be to blame as well.

The state’s Environment Department and the Biodiversity Board has been battling this crisis over the last one month. The fungal infection has been noticed in the neem trees that abound in Kolkata, including in the Southern Avenue and New Town areas.

Speaking to News18, Himadri Shekhar Debanath, Chairman of Biodiversity Board, said: “This started from the Tollygunge area. Our team has given medicine, some of them have recovered, we have almost tracked what type of fungal infection. This might happen due to various reasons — like the long spell of high temperature. The area of concern is that neem, which is generally used as pesticide, itself is under attack …

This affliction was initially noticed two years ago in the neem trees of Kolkata’s Tollygunge Club. The good news is that the treatment worked at that time.

Experts said this may be due to global climate change. The state government and Biodiversity Board, well aware of the substantial economic benefits of neem, are closely monitoring the trees. Neem is widely used in various sectors, especially the medical sector, and of course as an organic pesticide. 

Kolkata has nearly 2,000 neem trees. Some of the trees have recovered after treatment but the threat of attack still looms. Several years ago, Pune, Nagpur and Telengana had faced a similar crisis.

Experts pointed out that it is important to zero in on the exact cause, otherwise this unknown disease will remain a threat.

(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)

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