India, KFC blamed for bird flu spread in Nepal
Front political parties in Nepal are accusing India and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) for triggering spread of avian flu in the valley.
Bamdev Gautam, a senior leader of Communist Party of Nepal Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) told Down To Earth that India is exploiting the small market of Nepal by freely dumping agricultural produce and livestock there. He alleged that mindless dumping is a major cause for bird-flu spread in the country.
Out of control
Nepal is facing uncontrolled spread of H5N1 virus since July this year.
Gautam pointed out that biodiversity in the valley has been polluted after dumping charge on agriculture and livestock products from India was lifted during the regime of former prime minister, Baburam Bhattarai, from 2011 to 2013.
Political parties cite World Health organization (WHO) report to buttress their arguments. WHO had issued a warning in February, 2006 of a possible avian flu outbreak in the valley. The organization had put Nepal in the low risk zone for avian flu. But Nepal was put in a high risk zone after the outbreak of avian flu in India.
Despite the early warning, Nepal made no efforts to stop the agriculture and live stock dump from India, leaders alleged.
Gautam also raised the issue of KFC importing poor quality chicken from India. Around three years back, trucks carrying chicken to KFC were forcibly stopped by the locals. “There were a large number of dead birds. KFC’s unchecked poultry import from India is another major cause of avian flu spread in the valley,” he said.
Poultry farmers protest
Various organizations, including poultry farm owners of Kathmandu, had demanded immediate ban on chicken imports by KFC from India. When contacted, Santosh Rajbhar, operational consultant of KFC, Kathmandu, said KFC in Nepal imports chicken from Thailand, not India. "We have a valid certificate of imports of chicken from Thailand," Santosh said.
Leaders of the political parties refuse to believe KFC claim. "Last year, they claimed that chicken were imported from Brazil when we seized the trucks; the chicken meat had label of 'produce of India'," Gautam alleged.
Officials of the country's Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD) accepted that free dumping of agriculture and livestock produce in Nepal by India is a matter of concern. Senior officials of the department had written to India's health ministry to jointly devise a plan to control diseases spreading because of dumping.
G P Thakur, director of the department, said that a collaborative approach pertaining to imports of agriculture and livestock products from India is crucial. “We do not to adopt a combative approach in solving the problem. Department will soon formulate a policy with India to solve the problem,” he said.
Gautam accused the health and other departments of Nepal for acting as “nervous chickens”, instead of mapping the spread of virus. “Why is there no mapping of H5N1 virus spread? Why is government not mapping spread of avian flu from India, specially West Bengal and Bihar?” Gautam questioned in a letter written to the health department of the Nepal government.
Over 500,000 birds culled
Since July 25, around 26 cases of bird flu outbreak has been reported from Nepal. More than 500,000 birds have been culled. There have been widespread protests by poultry farm owners seeking compensation for the culled birds.
Political parties are also demanding a scientific procedure for checking agriculture and livestock imports from India.