The Union environment and forest ministry has issued a notification to constitute a special body to assess the loss to the forest wealth of the Madhya Pradesh (MP) due to the recent sal borer attacks, termed as the sal borer epidemic. The members of this body, apart from estimating the total loss, will also study the factors related to the intensification of the sal borer attacks in MP's forests.

R B Lal, director, Tropical Research Forest Institute in Jabalpur, MP, will be heading the proposed team whose recommendations for tackling the sal borer problem will be forwarded to the ministry. The team is to visit several of the affected areas and prepare a detailed report of the loss which will be submitted to the ministry within a period of one month.

The sal borer beetles have affected over one-sixth of the total sal forests in the state.The epidemic has spread to six districts that cover an area of 300,000 hectares (ha) including the biggest tiger reserve in the country, the Kanha national park. According to reports, in Mandla - the worst-affected district - nearly 800,000 trees have been attacked by the beetles. Authorities have estimated the total loss to be Rs 250 crore (Down To Earth , Vol 6, No 18).

Experts suspect that another 200,000 suffer from the sal borer infection. In a bid to end this forest menace, the MP government felled as many as 300,000 sal trees in the state's forest areas. However, the timely intervention of Saifuddin Soz, Union minister of environment and forests, about one million sal trees would have been cut in the state to prevent further infestation of trees by the pest endemic. The state government has expressed grave concern over the devastation caused by the sal borer beetles. During the previous sal borer attack in 1928-29, MP lost some 300,000 sal trees.

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