Farmers affected by roundworm disease
By Eunice Ruth and Nalinda
More than 500 acres of tea-cultivated lands in Balangoda have been destroyed due to a roundworm spreading disease among plants, said the cultivators. The farmers and the locals said this disease has also started spreading in the surrounding areas such as Rassagala, Vijinathkumbura, Waleboda, Kovulketiya, Wathukarakanda and Penipanguwa.
They pointed out that the symptoms of this disease among plants have been identified after the death of several flowering tea plants. More than eighty per cent of people from Balangoda, Rassagala, Waleboda, Kovulketiya, Penipanguwa, Wathukarakanda, Gallenakanda, Udakanda and Manatunkanda are in tea cultivation for their livelihood.
However, up to now, no authorities have inspected their lands regarding the issue and they have not supported the farmers in any way. “If this disease continues among tea cultivations for several more years, more than others, the tea growers in the area will be severely affected and even if new tea plants are planted to replace the died tea bushes, it takes three years to harvest them. Even a cultivator who owns half an acre of tea has to wait three years to replant and reap the benefits of his tea plantations,” said the residents.
Chandradasa, a cultivator from a surrounding village said that the quality of some of the plants was very good and those are about twenty to thirty years old. However, in the last few days, more than 100 plants per an acre of land have died due to the disease and he is in a situation where he cannot even replant. First the flowers and fruits of the tea bushes are picked and then the tea bushes become barren.
Then the leaves of the tea bushes fall off in two days and they can be uprooted by hand. Even when new tea plants are planted, they die at an early age and this is a big problem for us, as tea plant cultivators, he said.
When inquired in this regard from a member of Waleboda Pradeshiya Sabha, Shamantha Abeyratne, he said that cultivators in Balangoda area are suffering due to the roundworm disease and they had taken it up at a recent Coordinating Committee meeting of Balangoda. “We are expecting a proper response from them and once we received it, we will take the necessary action regarding re-plantation or any compensation,” he said.