Govt sounds alarm as locusts enter Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh
Crop-munching locust swarms have entered Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh a month in advance and pose a major threat to standing crops and vegetables, the Union environment ministry warned in a statement on Friday. It said Rajasthan is the most affected state and added the swarm has entered earlier than expected. “States are adopting various means for controlling the swarm,” the statement said.
Soumitra Dasgupta, the ministry’s additional director general (wildlife), said though they do not deal with locusts, they were informed by ground staff and wildlife wardens about the swarms. “So, we have shared the information from the western states,” said Dasgupta.
HT on Friday reported India is on the alert for the desert locusts, which according to the UN pose a “severe” risk to the country’s agriculture this year.
A top pest-monitoring agency has also flagged signs of an early-than-usual summer invasion of the species of grasshoppers from across Pakistan and prompted the government to consider importing equipment from the UK, apart from deploying drones, satellite-derived tools, special fire-tenders and sprayers at pre-identified border locations.
Locusts can fly up to 150 km daily and a one square km swarm can eat as much food as 35,000 people in terms of weight in a single day.
A surge in locust attacks since last year is being attributed to favourable breeding weather caused by a large number of cyclones in East Africa. India, China, and Pakistan face the most risk in Asia, according to the UN. Locust attacks are known to cause a considerable drop in agricultural output.
In its update on Thursday, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), said locusts’ breeding was continuing in southern Iran and south-west Pakistan, where control operations are in progress against hopper groups and bands. “As vegetation dries out, more groups and swarms will form and move from these areas to the summer breeding areas along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border in several waves from now until at least early July. Good rains are predicted during the first half of June along the Indo-Pakistan border [and] that would allow egg-laying to occur. This should reduce the further eastward movement of swarms that have already arrived in Rajasthan, India.”
K L Gurjar, deputy director, plant protection, Locust Warning Organisation, Union agriculture ministry, said the locusts that have arrived are sub-adults flying very high and covering huge distances fast. “They have reached up to Morena and Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh with the help of westerly winds. Swarms were also seen in Haryana bordering areas like Jhunjhunu. These have come from Pakistan, Baluchistan and Iran, which are their breeding area. Because they are sub-adults, there is a risk of egg-laying which we are trying to contain. Our teams are spraying insecticides and tracking their movement.”
Madhya Pradesh principal secretary, department of farmer welfare and agriculture, Ajit Kesari said, “The government of India has released Rs 51 lakh for purchase of chemical. We are keeping stock of chemicals in all the districts. Our instructions to all these districts are to track the locusts and spray chemical wherever they settle at night. Thus, their number is decreasing by the day. Also, wherever they settle the area is chemically treated to destroy eggs also. Meanwhile, government of India has warned Maharashtra given the possibility of the swarms heading in that direction.”