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Bird flu may hit Maharashtra again

Experts have warned that unscientific disposal of poultry litter may lead to spread of avian influenza in the region.

india Updated: Jun 16, 2006 13:28 IST

Experts have warned of another bird flu outbreak in Maharashtra after monsoons due to the unscientific disposal of chicken culled in the first episode of the dreaded virus outbreak in February.

Maharashtra witnessed an outbreak of bird flu in the Nandurbar and Jalgaon regions, giving a body blow to the once booming poultry industry.

If experts of the technical committee set up by the Maharashtra government are to be believed, unscientific disposal of composting poultry litter will lead to spread of the dreaded avian influenza (H5N1) virus in the same region after the rains.

The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) claims that the animal husbandry department ignored its guidelines. But the department maintains that it followed World Health Organisation norms in composting of culled chickens.

"Despite giving it proper guidelines on how to coordinate with firms specialising in composting, the department ignored them and followed its own method," said MPCB member secretary DB Boralkar.

"Following a meeting with state and central government officials on March 1, we had told the animal husbandry department to coordinate with Excel industries for aerobic composting," Boralkar said.

"Neither did they comply nor take the suggestions of Excel. This was despite basic enquiries on the cost factors and methods involved."

Corroborating the MPCB official, Excel general manager (technical) Sushanta Kundu said, "We had offered them help for composting poultry litter and disinfecting the birdcages. We offered one kg of bioculum culture, which speeds up aerobic composting of a tonne of organic waste. But the department did not show any interest."

He, too, did not deny the possibility of another outbreak in the same regions.

"Despite our advice, neither did the department clean the bird cages nor treat the virus with Vantocil B, which is readily available," Kundu lamented.

Animal Husbandry Department commissioner Vijay Kumar, however, said that they followed WHO norms and the MPCB had given them a clean chit.

"We followed the WHO norms. In fact, the MPCB officials came and checked and were satisfied with the culling and disposal procedures. The disposals were carried out in the presence of central officials," Kumar said.

But Boralkar alleged that the department had culled the chickens and buried them.

"The chickens should ideally have been incinerated. However, they were buried inside bags which further delayed degradation," he said.

Poultry litter remains the main concern of MPCB. "Poultry litter is the carrier of the virus and composting is yet to be done," Boralkar warned.