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Northeast all set to tackle bird flu
Atanu Phukan in Kohima | November 08, 2005 10:16 IST
Alarmed by the spread of bird flu from East Asian countries to Europe and considering the vulnerability of the region, authorities in northeastern states have strengthened preventive measures to check the possible spread of the avian influenza.
The vast network of wetlands and rivers of the entire region is a suitable home for winter birds and a major flyway for migratory birds.
This makes the northeast vulnerable to the flu.
Moreover, its proximity to Southeast Asian countries is a major concern because poultry birds are imported from Myanmar through Manipur and Mizoram, said a veterinary expert.
Alarmed over the spread of H5n1 virus that causes avian influenza to both wild waterfowls and domesticated birds in 11 Asian countries and Europe, wildlife wardens and veterinary departments in the region have already issued certain guidelines to the villagers as preventive measures.
In Nagaland, the department of veterinary and animal husbandry has asked villagers to follow guidelines issued through departmental sub-centres and the media and requested them to inform nearby offices of veterinary or civil administration if they come across a dead wild duck or any other waterfowl.
The department also asked villagers to report immediately to veterinary out-posts, centres or officers whenever there is heavy mortality in a particular flock of domesticated poultry bird and not to touch and handle the dead birds, said N Meyase, Nagaland director of veterinary and animal husbandry.
In Assam, chief wildlife warden M C Malakar has alerted field-level staff in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries to keep vigil on migratory waterfowls.
The field-level staff have also been asked to adopt necessary measures so that domesticated ducks do not share the same wetland for feeding.
Migratory birds mainly come to India and other warmer areas from vast Siberian landscape, Tibet and Eastern China mainly to avoid the severe winter but not for breeding, said Prof Paramesh Bhattacharya, noted ornithologist of Guawahati University.
"The northeast forms part of two major highways or flyways of the migratory birds. We have two migratory routes-- the Central Asian-Himalayan Flyway, which cover the northeast and other parts of India, and East Asian-Australian Flyway which also touches the northeast," said Prof Bhattacharya.
As Kaziranga is a suitable home to many migratory species that start arriving by the end of October, park authorities alerted its field staff and veterinarians to monitor signs of bird flu in waterfowls.
Following recent reports of hundreds of bar-headed geese perishing in South-Eastern China, the park authority has taken extra care and sent a veterinarian to Kolkata for training on avian influenza because thousands of bar-headed geese and graylag geese visit Kazirang every winter.
Authorities in Manipur and Mizoram have also cautioned people living around wetlands to follow the 'dos and don'ts' issued by the government departments.
In Mizoram, veterinary department re-imposed the ban on import of poultry and pigs from Myanmar and Bangladesh and a state-level disease emergency committee headed by the chief secretary has been formed.
Alarmed by the death of a red-legged falcon at Barak River in Tamenglong district recently, the authorities launched a campaign in Manipur to make the people aware of avian influenza.As hunting is a favourite pastime, particularly during winters, among the people across the region, the authorities in each northeastern state asked the villagers not to hunt waterfowls.