The much awaited monsoon showers have become nightmarish, at least, to the villagers of Kulanada and Thumpamon in Pathanamthitta district. Thanks to the fast spreading Giant African Snail menace that has been posing a serious threat to crops in this agrarian belt.
The African snails that have been spreading to unmanageable and havoc proportions in Konni, Pramadom and Chenneerkara since the past three years began to extend its 'antenna’ of destruction to the adjoining villages of Thumpamon and Kulanada areas this time around.
These swarming nocturnal greasy creatures come out of their day-time hide-outs like wet cavities in the ground, trees, burrows, etc, and move in clusters in the evenings. They feed on the vegetation, destroying the crops, leaving the peasant life miserable in this part of the State.
A team of experts attached to the Agriculture department, comprising M. Preetha, Assistant Principal Agriculture Officer; P.N. Noorjahan, Deputy Director; S. Lal, Assistant Director, and P. Rejani, Agriculture Officer, accompanied by the panchayat authorities, have inspected the snail-infested areas of Thumpamon, Punnakkunnu and Paanil areas of Kulanada panchayat on Wednesday following complaints of large-scale crop destruction by the snails.
Talking to The Hindu, the Agriculture Officer, P. Rejani, said the giant snails feed on the crops from its root to tender leaves. Food crops like papaya, tapioca, plantain, and various other vegetation are facing threat from these swarming nocturnal creatures. However, rubber trees appear to be not a favourite of the snails, says Ms Rejani.
Local people also lament of the snails feeding on tender leaves of coconut trees, leading to decay of many trees.
These greasy creatures also creep into kitchens and shops and feed on cement on the walls.
The villagers have been desperately trying to combat the snail menace by sprinkling common salt that acts as an effective molluscicide.
The Agriculture Officer says that she has already submitted a proposal to the departmental higher-ups as well as the grama panchayat authorities to combat the African snails on a war footing basis, lest it would have a devastating effect on various crops in this primarily agrarian belt. The expert team also found snails even feeding on tubers and its strings as well as paddy and other vegetable crops, she said.
An expert team attached to the Karshaka Santwanom’ of Kerala Agriculture University has recommended spraying of copper sulphate solution and Pottassium Permanganate to kill the snails. But, the local grama panchayat too is reportedly finding it difficult to mobilise the huge fund required for snail eradication.
A local peasant told The Hindu that he has been using tobacco-salt mixture as an effective molluscicide against the snails in his banana farm.
Villagers plead for immediate attention of the authorities concerned and the Government to effectively combat the snail menace and eradicate the creatures for ever.
Snail problem in Konni
The African Snails (Achatina Fluica) was reportedly sighted in Konni during the monsoon in 2008. The snails were found multiplied to unmanageable proportion in different parts of the Konni panchayat in the next two years.
The Giant African snails have been posing problems in many parts of Konni panchayat and its bordering villages in the years that followed.
Experts say that the manifold multiplication of the snail population is cause of concern as a snail lays as many as 400 eggs at a time and a major portion of which will be easily hatched.
Experts attached to Agriculture department say the African snails can go into hibernation for three to four years and come out as and when the climate is conducive for them.