Dwarka’s greenery stands at risk. A parasitic plant called Cuscuta, commonly known as dodder or amar bel, has attacked the sub-city’s vegetation. The leafless, yellow-orange Cuscuta attaches itself to a plant, wraps itself around it and finally inserts itself into its vascular system, slowly killing it.
A resident of Shaman Apartments, Sector 22, and an eminent environmental activist, Diwan Singh, says, “Cuscuta starts its onslaught with the onset of winter. It happens every year, but this time, the problem seems more grave — the new plants and hedges are the worst affected. You can see its spread in the parks of sectors 11, 12, 18, 19, 20, 22 and 23 — practically everywhere.”
SK Goel, general secretary of Dwarka Forum and a resident of Shivam Apartments, Sector 12, says, “Every year, its spread seems to be increasing — that’s what I have observed in the past five years. The DDA is not taking the matter seriously. In Sector 12, most of the plants have been affected because of Cuscuta.”
A Cuscuta-covered hedge in a Sector 19 park
Surprisingly, the DDA seems to be in no hurry to act. An RTI activist and nature lover from Sector 16, Ramesh Mumukshu, explains how just pruning is not enough. “The authorities feel that pruning the affected plants should suffice. But those who prune are unskilled and untrained. They often just leave the pruned stems on the ground. That doesn't help — they must be burnt,” he says.
A floriculturist from Pusa Polytechnic and a resident of Brahma society in Sector 7, RL Mishra, explains how the dodder works. “Its parasitic haustorium, or modified roots, enters the stem of the host plant and takes energy from it. It spreads fast and covers the entire plant in just a few days," he says. "And we humans are its most common carriers. Children playing in the park often pick up Cuscuta stems because they are colourful and bright, and throw them elsewhere, leading to the spread of this parasite. The dodder should be removed from trees, and properly destroyed by burning. But the authorities are not doing so."
Vijay Dhasmana, an expert on horticultural issues, speaks on the spread of Cuscuta in Delhi. “Birds have a big role to play in the spread of Cuscuta. The dodder fruits, which are eaten by birds, are glutinous. As these glutinous seeds are often difficult to expel, birds rub their backs on tree branches when defecating. This leads to the spread of the parasitic Cuscuta.”
He adds, “Dodder needs to be trimmed and removed at an early stage. You won't see it in the New Delhi Municipal Council [NDMC] area, as the NDMC is very serious about taking care of its horticulture. But in other parts of Delhi, such parasitic plants are handled casually; workers are hardly aware of the problem and how to tackle them properly. There Authority needs to train the workforce, make it more aware.”
When City Spidey got in touch with an official of the DDA horticulture department, he said they were aware of the situation and were doing what they could to remove the parasites from the affected plants and stem their spread.