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Wednesday, September 30, 1998
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Fungus kills 800 deodars in Chail
From Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

SHIMLA, Sept 29 — The mysterious disease, which dried up over 800 mature deodar trees in the Chail area over the past five years, has been caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi, a deadly fungus known for its destructive potential the world over.

The fungus, identified by a special team comprising scientists of Himalayan Forestry Research Institute and the Himalayan Research Group, a non-government organisation, has been reported for the first time from the Himalayan region. The detection of the fungus, the scientists say, is a matter of grave concern as it could spell doom not only for the valuable deodar trees but also afflict other important high-altitude species like kail and oak. Unless effective preventive and curative measures were taken, the disease could spread to fruit trees, they warn.

The team studied two patches of afflicted trees and found that in the first stage, the needles turn yellowish and their size also decreases progressively. The crown starts withering in the next stage and finally the bark also peels off the drying tree. However, there was no trace of fungus in the dried trees and it was confined only to the roots. The average size of needles in afflicted trees was 2.5 cm as against 4 cm in healthy trees.

The fungus, however, did not affect the young trees as their root system had greater capacity to regenerate them the matured ones.

The fungus spread mostly during the rainy season when conditions were ideal for its growth. The symptoms, however, manifest only in the next spring when the demand for nutrients increased. As the vigour of the short roots, which absorb moisture and nutrients starts declining, the tree starts withering slowly but steadily. It takes a few years for the tree to dry up.

While about 800 trees in two clusters have completely dried up, another 400 to 500 in the peripheral area are in different stages of withering. The fungus has spread to some other species of trees and bushes in the area, calling for urgent remedial measures.

The institute in its detailed report submitted to the Forest Department suggested possible control measures. Since digging out the roots of dried and afflicted trees was not feasible and chemical methods like fumigation of infected forest soil with fungicides involved large environmental issues, the only way out was to isolate the afflicted trees from the rest of the forest by digging deep trenches. Maximum threat to the healthy trees was not from the dried trees but from the afflicted green trees and biotic interference as the fungus could spread to other areas through soil.

The institute has recommended a thorough survey of the forests in and around Chail to assess the extent of the spread of disease, temporary isolation of the two main infected forest areas, initiation of detailed studies on the pathogenicity of the fungus in nursery conditions and evaluation of various regimes of control measures in the infected forests.

Mr S.K. Pandey, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, said that the department had asked the institute to take up the required studies and evolve control measures so that timely steps could be taken to contain it. The investigations would span over two years. The final report would be available by December, 2000.



DSGMC poll made mandatory
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Sept 29 — Annual elections to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) have been made mandatory by the Delhi Government by amending the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1971.

The amendment to streamline the election process was passed by the Delhi assembly yesterday. The amended Act makes it compulsory for the DSGMC to hold annual elections of the executive board.

Delhi Industry Minister Harsharan Singh Balli, who moved the Bill, said "the amendment was necessary to safeguard the interest of gurdwaras. It is a collective desire of the community to change the existing Act to make the functioning of the DSGMC transparent."

Following the amendment to the Act, the elections will take place at a regular interval and cannot be postponed on "frivolous" grounds. The last elections for the body took place in 1995 after a gap of 16 years.

The amendment to Section 16 of the Act stipulates that "if no election is held by the president before the end of the year, the executive board will stand automatically dissolved unless the government extends its term."

The amendment to Section 19 of the Act states that "if the executive board fails to hold three consecutive meetings, the board shall stand automatically dissolved unless the government deems necessary to extend its term."

"In the event of dissolution, the election of the president, other office-bearers and members of the board, shall be held in accordance with Sections 15 and 16."

According to the earlier Act president, office bearers and members of the executive could hold office for a term of one year but were eligible for re-election for another term. Further, an outgoing member or office-bearer could continue to hold office until the election of his successor was held.

It was mandatory for the executive board to hold a meeting every fortnight. Before the completion of one year the board and its office-bearers and members could be removed by a no-confidence motion by at least 17 members after a 14-day notice.

The minister said over the years, elections had been postponed or cancelled in utter disregard of the provisions of the Act.

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