Proliferation of African snails poses concern in Kochi’s coastal panchayats

The proliferation of giant African snails seems to have yet again triggered concerns over crop infestations and public health in the district.

The problem seems particularly worse in the coastal panchayats such as Nayarambalam and Njarakkal.

“We have approached the agriculture department seeking steps to control them especially on abandoned plots in the panchayat limits,” said Neethu Binod, Nayarambalam panchayat president.

Agriculture Department keeps getting steady stream of complaints about croo infestations by African snails. “The absence of an appropriate chemical specifically targeting them remains another challenge,” said Mary Shilpa, district agriculture officer. Though Agriculture Department had in the past recommended a chemical it was later abandoned as it was found highly toxic, especially in aquatic systems.

Pouring salt and saline solutions has emerged as the most commonly adopted ploy to kill African snails. “We recommend farmers to stack fruit and vegetable leaves in wet sacks as snails get drawn to them in numbers by the smell making it easier for their mass elimination. They infest almost all crops with soft parts and also walls as the calcium presence help them create their shells,” said Sheethal Babu Paul, agriculture officer, Elamkunnapuzha.

T. V. Sajeev, senior principal scientist with the Kerala Forest Research Institute drew attention to the public health concerns raised by the proliferation of African snails. “Being the host of parasitic nematode, they can trigger diseases such as cerebral meningitis on coming into contact with them with bare hands,” he said.

He said that local bodies have a major role to control the infestations since they alone can intervene in spaces considered no man’s land and which offer perfect settings for their proliferation. The infested areas should be demarcated and control measures should be applied.

“We had identified 223 places with African snail invasions before the 2018 flood and the situation severely worsened after that. Since then we have identified highly vulnerable local bodies and suggested them control measures. Being hermaphrodites, African snails reproduce at a rapid pace. They remain underground during summer season giving the false impression that their invasion is over only for them to emerge en masse with the rains,” said Mr. Sajeev.

The timber imports centred around Willingdon island during 2015-16 is believed to have carried African snails in Kochi and then spread widely as timber was delivered to mills across the State.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 6:19:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/proliferation-of-african-snails-poses-concern-in-kochis-coastal-panchayats/article37746923.ece

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