War against a notorious asthma-triggering weed

War against a notorious asthma-triggering weed

A number of people in the City are being affected by parthenium, a kind of weed, whose pollen is a major asthma-trigger.

Though the war against parthenium was launched by the State and Centre 30 years ago and relaunched a decade ago, it has done nothing to tackle the weed menace. With asthma cases continuing to rise, controlling the notoriously mushrooming growth of parthenium is a major challenge for Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and other agencies. “We have not paid any attention so far. But we are thinking of taking up the issue to health concerns,” said Brijesh Kumar, chief conservator of forests, BBMP.

Meanwhile, the National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources (NBAIR) and National Centre for Weeds, Jabalpur, launched a campaign to reduce the growth of the weed but it yielded only a 40 per cent result.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Abraham Verghese, Director, NBAIR, said, “The war against parthenium has not been successful as it can grow anywhere with minimal moisture and it also does not let any other organism grow. Beetle that feed on parthenium were introduced so that chemicals can be avoided and air and ground water are not polluted.”

Coverage area

Though parthenium's coverage area has reduced in the central business district, compared to what it was 20 years ago, it is still growing rapidly in small pockets in the City and extensively on the outskirts, Verghese added.

“Extensive research is going on in the institutions to control the weed’s growth. Apart from uprooting, another solution is massive plantation of Cassia saplings. This is the only plant which does not let parthenium grow. BBMP and other departments should promote its sale,” Verghese opined.

B S Bhumannavar, retired principal scientist of NBAIR, said, “The initiative also failed because the beetles feed on parthenium only between July and September but the weed grows throughout the year. It is only during the three-month period that beetles feed extensively, which has led to minimal control. Humans can also eradicate the weed by uprooting and burning it. Students and adults, as part of their social responsibility, should take the onus upon themselves to clear the weed.”

T V Ramachandra, Professor, Centre for Ecological Sciences, IISc, said, “The City is gradually becoming a parthenium capital, because wherever trees are uprooted and spaces remain vacant, the weed thrives as its pollen is in the air.”

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