The Mangrove Cell of the State Forest Department has said that mangroves in and near Mumbai are currently facing large scale moth attacks. Known as Hyblaea purea, this particular insect reportedly is a teak defoliator while it can feed on trees during its nascent stages as a caterpillar.
It is said that almost 90 per cent of mangroves are affected, amounting to nearly 5,000 hectares. However, the authorities face a challenging task ahead as spraying insecticides to get rid of the moths could in turn harm the health of the mangroves.
Locals in the region have said that they have seen a sudden deterioration of mangroves this year with one fisherman mentioning that there have been three back to back moth attacks so far. He added that other fishermen and residents of the region have filed complaints about this to the forest department.
Virendra Tiwari who is the Additional Principal Chief Conservator Of Forests (Mangrove Cell) confirmed that around 90 per cent of Mumbai and Navi Mumbai’s mangroves have been affected by these moth attacks.
As per a study conducted at the Institute of Wood Science and Technology by R Raja Rishi, neem oil is a viable solution to counter moth attacks. However, experts said that spraying neem oil at such a grand scale is not feasible.
Speaking to Mumbai Mirror, State Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray said that he will ask officials from the Mangrove Cell to look into the matter and take the necessary measures to prevent its spread.
“With predatory birds preferring readymade food from households, the population of moths has gone up. The balance of nature has been disturbed. It’s not a good indicator,” said D Stalin from the NGO Vanashakti.
He said that almost the entirety of Mumbai’s mangroves, classified as ‘Avicennia marina’, are affected by the moth attacks. He added that there’s another attack coming from the mili bug which will feed on the ‘Soneratia apatela’ mangroves.