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Tiny housefly holds Kovai village hostage

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Bizarre as it sounds, around 500 residents of a village in Coimbatore district are under virtual house arrest everyday. From sun-up till sun down, they are held hostage by a small but odious enemy.

For the last five years, the tormented people of Thimmanaicken Palayam in Sulur Municipality have been plagued by swarms of houseflies which blanket the village. Nothing is safe from the insects — from the morning cup of tea to food being cooked in hearths and even drinking water – as they swarm inside the house and fall into containers and storage vessels. The villagers complain that if they consume food into which a fly has fallen, they fall ill and many have been taken to hospital for eating such contaminated food.

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As a result, the hapless inhabitants of the village, most of whom are either farmers or farm labourers, have no choice but to barricade themselves indoors to keep the insects at bay. It is only after sun down, when the housefly menace abates, that the villagers venture out.

Clockwise from top left: Residents Anitha, Revathi, Kittan and Suganthi

The desperate villagers have lodged complaints and urged officials including the District Collector to eradicate the menace but to little avail.

Anitha, a resident of the village said: “We built our new house in this village but thousands of houseflies have been swarming around the area for the past five years without any respite. This has resulted in ill health and attack of chronic diseases, weakening our immune systems. We have lodged complaints with the District Collector too but so far no permanent solution has been found.”

Adds Revathi, another resident: “We have moved away from the city to live in an independent house; we bought a vacant plot and constructed our house to reside with our children in comfort. But the housefly menace all the time makes it extremely difficult for us to live here. The Village Panchayat officials visit us and ask us to disinfect the house and surroundings during their visits. Despite doing this, we have not been able to eradicate this menace.”

The desperate villagers have lodged complaints and urged officials including the District Collector to eradicate the menace but to little avail.

“When we complained to the local Village Panchayat Officials about the menace, they visited us only once to spray some disinfectant but never bothered to come again. They handed us a packet containing a tablet and asked us to hang it at the entrance to our houses to keep the flies away. We did that but it has not solved the problem Our relatives are hesitant to visit and stay in our houses due to this housefly problem. It is causing so much ill health and hygiene issues,” complained Suganthi another resident.

Chicken farming has been stated as one reason for the presence of flies in the village

Kittan, a resident of that village made this fervent plea “Housefly problem has become a menace for this village. The local Selakarisal Panchayat and the District Administration should intervene and find a permanent solution for this hygiene issue.”

Unable to face the problem, three families have moved out of the village. The others are stuck as they cannot leave their homes and move elsewhere.

Entomologist Professor Navaneethakrishnan calls for a detailed study of the problem. “By and large huge congregation of houseflies is mainly during the summer months and comparatively lesser during the rainy season. If one particular place has this massive presence, it could be due to seasonal change in weather conditions. We can arrive at a permanent solution only on a complete and thorough study of the village,” he said.

The villagers blame the massive influx of the disease vectors on the waste from the numerous chicken farmers in the vicinity.

While the reason for the infestation is debatable, the problem is a present and continuous health hazard to Thimmanaicken Palayam requiring a permanent solution. The residents have urged the local Selakarisal Panchayat, Sulur Municipality and Coimbatore District Administration come together to deal with the menace.

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