Punjab on high alert following avian influenza outbreak at Pong Dam lake; over 3000 dead birds found at lake

A large number of migratory birds arrive at Harike Pattan in Tarn Taran, Keshopur Chhamb in Gurdaspur, Nangal Dam, Ropar and other water bodies in the state

Bird carcasses being collected by officials of Himachal Pradesh Wildlife Department at Pong Dam lake
Bird carcasses being collected by officials of Himachal Pradesh Wildlife Department at Pong Dam lake
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Bipin Bhardwaj

Following the outbreak of avian influenza (H5N1) in water fowls at Pong Dam lake in Himachal Pradesh, the Punjab government on Wednesday alerted its officials to keep tabs on any unusual deaths of migratory and poultry birds across the state.

Animal Husbandry Director Harbinder Singh Kahlon said an advisory has been issued for "surveillance of commercial poultry farms and backyard poultry farms to find any unusual mortality in birds”.

“The advisory has been sent to all 22 deputy directors of the department to ensure regular visit of field staff to commercial and backyard poultry farms in the state,” he added.

In case any "unusual mortality" in poultry birds is found, samples will be sent to the Northern Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (RDDL), Jalandhar, to ascertain the cause.

Similarly, the Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation has also issued an advisory for maintaining extra vigil around lakes and wetlands in the state.

Protocols have also been issued for collection of samples in case any migratory bird is found dead, the officials further said, adding that all possible precautions were being taken.

A large number of migratory birds arrive at Harike Pattan in Tarn Taran, Keshopur Chhamb in Gurdaspur, Nangal Dam, Ropar and other water bodies of the state.

Meanwhile, it was reported that teams of the state wildlife department had spotted over 3000 dead birds at Himachal's Pong Dam lake and its surroundings. A team of wildlife experts from Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, visited the lake on Wednesday and collected samples of the carcasses, drippings and water. The district administration has also collected water samples from the lake to ascertain the presence of virus.

Senior state government officials including the Chief Secretary also visited the Pong Dam lake to take stock of the situation.

It also came to the fore that in the past over a decade, lakhs of birds have died at 20 poultry farms located in Barwala belt of Haryana. Teams of experts from RDDL, Jalandhar, had collected samples from the farms on Tuesday and the reports are still awaited. The Barwala-Raipur Rani area is one of the largest poultry belts in the country with nearly 70-80 lakh birds in more than 100 farms. However, there was no confirmed report of avian influenza in the area as of now.

Poultry farmers in Panchkula have attributed the high mortality rate in birds to extreme cold weather conditions or the ‘Ranikhet’ disease.

Meanwhile, the Chandigarh Forest and Wildlife department also woke up from slumber after two birds – a migratory bird (common coot) and a crow were found dead. The carcasses were sent to RDDL, Jalandhar for examinations. The UT Chief Conservator of Forest Debendra Dalai, however, termed it as an ‘isolated case’ and a case of ‘natural deaths’.

On December 17, 2014, bird flu was confirmed in domesticated geese at Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh following which over 125 geese were culled by the Chandigarh administration and the lake which is called the lifeline of the city, was out of bound for over two months.

In another development, heaps of hen carcasses were found dumped at two sites adjacent to Chakki Mor on the Chandigarh-Parwanoo-Shimla national highway on Wednesday morning.

Sanjeev Dhiman, Sub Divisional Magistrate, Kasauli, claimed that teams of officials from veterinary, Public Works Department (PWD) and other concerned departments were rushed to the spot and samples were taken to assess the cause of death.

The district administration has registered a first information report (FIR) against unidentified persons for dumping the dead chickens in the areas. The carcasses have been disposed of as per the protocol.

Officials suspect that certain poultry farmers from Barwala or Raipur Rani areas of Haryana, which are hardly 50 km away, might have dumped the bird carcasses at Chakki Mor.

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