NEW DELHI: India is battling the worst desert locust outbreak in recent times. The crop-destroying swarms first attacked Rajasthan and have now spread to Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. According to experts, broadly four species of locusts are found in India – desert locust, migratory locust, Bombay locust and tree locust. The desert locust is considered the most destructive.
It multiplies very rapidly and is capable of covering 150 kilometers in a day.
Here is how the states are making efforts to tackle locust attack:
Jhansi and Sonbhadra in UP
Overnight operations were carried out by the authorities to clear swarms of locusts in Moth and Garautha areas of Jhansi, and in Sonbhadra district, officials said on Thursday.
In Jhansi, a large number of locusts was eliminated with spraying of chemicals all through the night but a smaller number of those who survived has moved towards Pariksha near Jhansi on Thursday morning, deputy director, agriculture, Kamal Katiyar, said.
In Sonbhadra, a swarm of locusts reached Bemauri village in Ghorawal tehsil on Wednesday night where a team of the Agriculture Department sprayed chemicals till late night, killing a large number of insects.
Their further movement will depend on the direction of the wind, he said.
Taking cognisance of the matter, chief minister Yogi Adityanath had on Wednesday issued directions to district magistrates of Jhansi, Lalitpur, Agra, Mathura, Shamli, Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Mahoba, Banda, Chitrakoot, Jalaun, Etawah and Kanpur Dehat.
The Delhi government has asked authorities concerned to spray insecticides and pesticides on standing crops, vegetation, gardens and orchards to prevent a probable attack of desert locusts in Delhi.
Agriculture department joint director A P Saini in an advisory issued on Wednesday asked the authorities to organise awareness programmes for public and farmers to prevent the attack of locusts in the national capital.
“As the swarm of locusts flies in daytime, and rests during the night, it should not be allowed to rest at night,” the advisory read.
It asked the authorities to carry out spraying of pesticides chlorpyrifos and malathion.
With swarms of locusts currently moving in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, the Palghar district administration on Thursday asked the farmers and officials to prepare themselves to tackle any possible attack on crops by these insects.
In an official message, Palghar district collector Dr Kailas Shinde asked the farmers in the district to remain guarded against the locusts in order to save their standing crops.
“Locust infestation is largely found in Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh. Talasari, Dahanu and Jawhar talukas of Palghar district bordering Gujarat have been alerted about the locust infestation. These insects can pose a threat to crops,” Shinde said.
Swarms of locusts have moved towards Maharashtra’s Gondia district after attacking crops in neighbouring Bhandara, an official said on Thursday.
Authorities in Gondia were alerted while pesticides were sprayed on crops and trees at a village in Bhandara which was affected by the pests, he said.
An agriculture team rushed to Bhandara in the early hours of Thursday and sprayed pesticides with two fire tenders on trees in one-km radius in Temani village of the district, divisional joint director of agriculture Ravi Bhosle.
About 90,000 hectares in 20 districts of Rajasthan have been affected due to the locust attack, an official said on Thursday.
Swarms of locust have moved from Sri Ganganagar, Nagaur, Jaipur, Dausa, Karauli and Swai Madhopur towards other areas in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh after the authorities conducted operations to tackle them.
Crop over 4,000 hectares in Sri Ganganagar and 100 hectares in Nagaur have been destroyed.
Around 90,000 hectares in 20 districts have been affected in the state due to the locust attack, said Om Prakash, commissioner of the agriculture department.
He said the department carried out locust control operations on 67,000 hectares.
Haryana sounds high alert
Haryana has issued a high alert in seven districts after locust swarms attacked crops in neighbouring Rajasthan and a few other states, official said on Thursday, asserting that there was enough insecticide in stock to tackle the pest menace.
Tractors mounted with chemical sprayers have also been deployed.
Authorities in Haryana said that though the locust swarms have not entered the state, but they are maintaining a high alert.
Govt steps up locust control operations
The government has placed an order for buying 60 spraying machines from UK-based company Micron, and two firms have been finalised for supply of drones for aerial spraying of insecticides for effective control over tall trees and inaccessible areas, the Union agriculture ministry said.
Incursions of locust hoppers have been reported since April 11 and that of pink immature adults since April 30 in bordering districts of Rajasthan and Punjab, which are being controlled, it said.
Pink immature adults fly high and cover long distances during day hours along with the westerly winds coming from the Pakistan side. Most of these pink immature adults settle on trees during night, and mostly fly during the day, it explained.
Stating that control operations are in full swing currently, the ministry said so far locusts have been controlled in 47,308 hectare area in total 303 places in Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh by Locust Control Officers in coordination with district administration and state agriculture department.
During 2019-20, India witnessed a massive locust attack which was successfully controlled.
Experts blame the growing menace of desert locusts on climate change. They say breeding of locusts is directly related to soil moisture and food availability.
(With agency inputs)