BHUBANESWAR: The State Government’s bid to start culling of poultry birds in H5N1 avian influenza infected Keranga in Khurda hit a roadblock on Tuesday after locals stalled the exercise demanding a raise in compensation and demolition of a broiler farm located on the outskirts of the village.
Khurda Collector Niranjan Sahu, SP Manoranjan Mohanty and CDVO Dr Manas Ranjan Mohapatra visited Keranga and tried to persuade the villagers to allow culling but a section of the locals stuck to their ground.
Sources in the administration said a group of villagers was vociferous in its demand that the birds of the poultry farm be culled as a precautionary measure. They alleged that virus transmission may have started from the unit.
However, the administration told them that culling in the farm cannot be taken up as the farm is located at a distance of 2 km from Keranga and did not fall in the infected zone which is identified as 1 km radius of the epicentre. Since locals were insistent, the authorities assured them to send samples from the farm for testing. If the results test positive, culling would be taken up, said the official sources.
Another section also demanded that compensation be paid at real time cost, not as per the rates fixed by the Centre. To make a breakthrough, the district administration agreed to pay `25 extra from the Red Cross fund for each bird over one and a half months old.
By evening, SP Manoranjan Mohanty said, majority of the villagers could be persuaded to allow culling over health grounds as it is of primary concern. However, there is still a section which is insistent on the demands. ‘’We will start the operation on Wednesday at 6 am and are hopeful that the locals would cooperate,’’ he added.
The district administration has also decided to sweep farms and poultry holders in surveillance zone of 1-10 km radius. Any suspicious mortality would be reported for investigation.
While the culling operation was in limbo, the origin of the virus remained a poser for State Government as Keranga had reported bird flu in 2011-12. Since the Veterinary Directorate had been monitoring the region ever since, it could detect the mortalities and sent the samples for test which led to immediate intervention.
Sources said the H5N1 virus, which has a long gestation period, may have remained dormant in sub-surface soil since the disposal process does not always lead to complete destruction of agents. Besides, possibility of the virus mutating after four years remained a question.
A major worry, however, was that crows also perished after being infected, which meant these birds may have travelled a distance of 5 to 10 km and transmitted the virus. Since Chilika lagoon, which is thronged by thousands of migratory birds during this period of the year, is not far, Wildlife Wing authorities are keeping a close watch.
Chilika Wildlife Division authorities said standard protocol for monitoring and surveillance is maintained and samples are sent for tests periodically. So far, no unusual death of migratory birds has been reported from the brackish water lagoon yet. The Health Department, meanwhile, has stepped up watch on flu incidence in villages located in 10 km radius of Keranga.