MP battles with swarms of desert locusts heading towards Maharashtra
The locusts have to be prevented from breeding otherwise they will pose a threat to the kharif crop, said an expert.Updated: May 22, 2020 23:43 IST
Swarms of desert locusts have reached districts of Madhya Pradesh close to Rajasthan border, travelling thousands of kilometers from west Asia through Pakistan looking for food, a sight not seen in the central Indian state since 1993, officials said on Wednesday, as the state has asked farmers to spray chemicals and play loud music to shoo away the unusual guests.
The Madhya Pradesh agriculture department in consultation with the Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) has mobilised teams to drive away and kill these creatures as they settle on the trees in the night, officials said.
The swarms of locusts started arriving in Madhya Pradesh from Neemuch-Rajasthan border since Sunday. As many as 16 districts of Madhya Pradesh, mostly in the Malwa region, have been affected so far, officials said, adding that they may be heading to Maharashtra as they have already reached Dhar, not far from the western state.
Though Rabi season is over and there is no crop in the fields, the swarms have scared the vegetable growing farmers in Neemuch, Mandsaur, Ujjain, Dhar and other districts as they chase them away by beating drums, plates, tin cans etc.
“..Whenever they spot trees, they settle over it and devour the vegetation. If there is any loss to vegetables farmers, they will get compensation from the revenue department as per the rules and procedure,” said Ajit Kesari, principal secretary, department of farmer welfare and agriculture.
Explaining the modus operandi employed to get rid of the locusts, Kesari said that a team of government of India along with teams from the affected districts, were using water, noise and chemicals as weapons against the unwanted visitors.
“The moment the locusts sit on trees, we either shoo them away with the help of noise or with water sprayed from fire tenders. Our second strategy is to spray a specific chemical over them around midnight, once they settle over trees. It kills some and the remaining fly. Then we repeat the process wherever they settle next,” he said.
He added that the central government had released Rs 51 lakh for the purchase of the chemical being used to fight the locust menace.
“We are keeping stock of chemicals in all the districts. Our instructions to all these districts are to track the locusts and spray the chemical over them when they settle at night. Thus, their number is decreasing by the day. Also, the area is chemically treated to destroy their eggs too,” said Kesari.
Dr KL Gujar, deputy director, Locust Warning Organisation (LWO), Faridabad said the creatures were headed this way looking for greener and moist areas.
“Given the swift westerly wind, swarms of desert locusts are covering a large area while flying high. The adult locusts can cover several hundred kilometres in the daytime. The breeding of the locusts took place in Pakistan, Baluchistan and Iran but right now, there is dry condition over there. That’s why these are heading towards greenery and moist areas. Direction of wind also helps them cover long distances.”
Dr Gurjar said, “We can’t control them in the daytime. We try to control them when they settle at night. Given the size of the group, we are able to cover only 50 to 60% of them with all our resources. The remaining fly and some more join the swarm to make its size bigger. Besides, the existing resources, we are also trying to use drones. In the next couple of days we can get drones to target them on the trees itself while spraying chemicals.”
He added that the locusts have arrived for the second consecutive year. This year they were chased in Rajasthan, MP, Gujarat and Punjab. Dr Gurjar said it was important to prevent them from breeding.
“We have to stop their breeding. If we can’t control them in five days, they will be ready to breed posing a threat to the kharif crop. That’s why we have to kill them very fast.”
(With input from Mustafa Husain in Neemuch and Monika Pandey in Jabalpur)