Punjab has been selected among the 10 locations across India for collection of snake venom samples under a research project by Tamil Nadu-based Centre for Herpetology,Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT).
The research project under the Global Snakebite Initiative,The Indian Express has learnt,has been planned to conduct toxicity tests and to ascertain the effectiveness of available anti-venom against the venoms. The project has been necessitated after several doctors across the country reported on the ineffectiveness of anti-venom,and which constitutes a serious problem and indicates geographic variations in venoms.
The Centre of Herpetology,MCBT has sought permission for the capture and extraction of venom samples from four species of snakes found in Punjab – Russels Viper,Common Cobra,Saw-scaled Viper and Common Krait.
In a letter dated July 16,2012,the Punjab government was asked to give permission for capturing and extracting venom samples from 20 Russels Vipers and 10 each of the other three species. The Centre of Herpetology assured that the snakes will be released unharmed to the wild,while underlining that none of the species in question was rare or endangered in any way.
Punjab Chief Wildlife Warden Dhirendra Singh told The Indian Express that the wildlife department had recently received the permission from state government to give a go ahead to MCBT to carry out the study. We have got the permission from the administrative department to allow MCBT to carry out the study. We will now write to them to collect samples, said Singh.
An official of Centre of Herpetology,said that Goa and Gujarat were among the other two locations out of the 10 locations in India from where samples will be collected.
In 2005,nearly 46,000 people died of snake bite in India,approximately one for every two HIV/AIDS deaths,as per a study Snakebite Mortality Rate in India. The maximum death occurred in Uttar Pradesh (8,700),followed by Andhra Pradesh (5,200) and then Bihar (4,500).
Though Punjab was not among the top 13 states that witnessed maximum number of snake bite deaths,Dhirendra Singh said the magnitude of snake bite deaths was no lesser in Punjab. Many snake bite death go unreported in Punjab. A large number of people prefer not to visit hospitals and rather go for unscientific treatment from outside. We are trying to at least get the data about the persons who visited hospitals due to snake bites. We have requested the health department to provide such data for the last couple of years, Singh added.
Incidentally,the Punjab government has recently issued a notification to compensate the victims of snake bite deaths,announcing Rs 1 lakh for the kin of the victim,Rs 20,000 for grievous injury and up to Rs 5,000 for treatment cost.