Termite outbreak empties out Almora village – Times of India

Posted: August 27, 2017 at 4:46 am


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By: Rohit Joshi

LAMBADI: A remote village in Almora, called Lambadi, has been battling a termite outbreak for almost half a century. So fierce has been the onslaught that it has forced more than 25 families to flee their homes in this period. While most chose to resettle in nearby villages, some have moved to areas as far as Kotdwar and Delhi, residents said.

When TOI visited the village in Syalde block of the district, the decay was apparent. Many houses had sagging roofs and termite frass in abundance as the insects munched away at the furniture.

Pointing to the main door of her house which showed signs of termite damage, Pushpa Devi, a resident, said, “They (termites) have destroyed everything. Look at our doors and windows. No one buys new furniture here since the insects will quickly ruin that too.”

Pushpa’s neighbour, Sarla, added, “While children in other villages grew up fearing wild animals, our grandparents told us tales of insects that ate everything and just wouldn’t go away.”

Experts said that deforestation and use of certain types of wood in construction of houses may have rendered the village more susceptible to the infestation. But added it was a peculiar, unique phenomenon and would need detailed study.

C S Negi, a professor at Kumaun university and a senior entomologist, said, “Since termites depend upon deadline wood, one needs to examine whether large scale deforestation has taken place in the recent past in the region due to factors such as construction of roads.”

“This could have created favourable conditions for termites.” Head of department, zoology, at Kumaun University’s Nainital campus, Professor B S Kaushal, said, “Termites can broadly be categorized into two types – wood termites and soil termites. Lambadi seems to be hit by the first one since houses in the village use wood abundantly in construction. Termites tend to form new colonies once old ones get populated. The young termites then spread and find new surfaces to populate. This is why it is so easy for the infestation to spread.”

The villagers aren’t sure when the termites first swooped in on their village, just that “things got out of hand” in the past 50 years.

Former gram pradhan Padam Singh said, “It was some 45 years ago that the termite infestation got severe. We appealed to the government many times but received no help.”

Some families renovated their houses using brick and cement. Those who couldn’t afford to do so left.

Bhawan Singh, whose family was among those who relocated to a village nearby, said, “We left our house 15 years ago after a part of the wooden roof collapsed. It wasn’t safe to live there any more. We received no compensation from anyone. So my family took a bank loan and built a house in another village.”

Prem Giri Goswami, who retired as assistant development officer in the agriculture department, told TOI, “The matter was first reported to the agriculture department in 1971. Our team visited the village many times and informed the higher authorities. After that a team of scientists from G B Pant University of Agriculture and Technology visited the village in 1998. They collected termite samples and advised villagers on how to deal with the outbreak.”

Ashvin Gautam, agriculture and soil conservation officer, Bhikiyasen, said, “We have been distributing insecticides in Lambadi and nearby villages for some time now. They have to be used properly to control the outbreak. We will send a team there to understand the situation.”

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Termite outbreak empties out Almora village – Times of India

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