Bantala: In an unprecedented development, lakhs of snails of an unusual species have destroyed hectares of cultivation at Gopalpur in Dhokuta panchayat here in Angul district, a report said.
Vegetable farming in Gopalpur, known as an agriculturally prosperous village of the district due to application of advanced scientific cultivation methods, has been severely hit due to the marauding snails affecting the livelihood of farmers.
“We now spend most of our time in eliminating snail population in the area instead of farming activities,” said a farmer.
Though the issue was raised with the agriculture department on several occasions, it has not yielded any result so far, he alleged.
According to reports, of the 150 families in the village, more than 100 depend on agriculture for livelihood. Farmers manage to harvest vegetables throughout the year.
However, they have lost their sleep over the last three years due to destruction of farming by snails. The creatures are nibbling through the leaves, flowers and fruits of the plants. They enter the vegetable fields in the evening and keep on destroying the plants till the next morning. “Though we are trying to protect our cultivation by covering the plants with mosquito nets, the strategy hardly works,” the farmers said.
Lakhs of snails on the roads often cause minor mishaps in the village. Left with no option, the farmers collect the snails in gunny bags in the morning and evening and later kill them. The dead rotten snails emanate foul smell in the area. Some farmers also use salt to kill the snails. The salt sale has shot up in the area with the farmers spending a lot for the purpose. They are using more than a quintal of salt a day to kill the creatures. Most of the snails are growing up to 500 to 600 gm in size, it was learnt.
Many farmers including Sripati Behera, Tuna Behera and Anil Behera demanded immediate measures by the agriculture department to bail them out.
When enquired by this correspondent about the origin of this snail species, it was learnt that a woman of nearby Madhapur village went to Puri about 15 years back to have a darshan of Lord Jagannath. She had collected this species from the sea beach mistaking it to be a conch. When she realised that it was a snail and not a conch, she released it into a canal.
Uncountable numbers of snails were generated from just a snail and have started making life miserable, claimed the villagers.
Padmalochan Das, deputy director of horticulture department, said he has no information about the development. The department would rope in some experts/ scientists to address the issue, Das added.