The locust menace close to Bihar in east, Karnataka, Andhra and Telangana in south, 16 states warned
A swarm of locusts on Wednesday and Thursday devastated crops in Uttar Pradesh’s Sonbhadhra district, which shares borders with Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. The pest has damaged crops in six states, leading to the Centre issuing a locust warning to 16 states.
UP agriculture officials said that swarms of locusts entered Ghorawal area in Sonbhadra from Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday afternoon and ate vegetable crops in fields in several villages. Jagdish Singh, a local, said that the swarm divided into many groups flew over the villages and damaged the vegetable crops. The damage was not much as most of the vegetable and other crops have been harvested, said district agriculture officer Piyush Rai.
About 1,200 kms away in Bidar, Karnataka, farmers kept a vigil in farms, as the locust were expected to sneak in through western Maharashtra, where they reached on Tuesday. In Bangalore, agriculture minister B C Patil said based on wind direction as predicted by the weather department, the possibility of the locust swarm reaching Karnataka was remote. The locusts are said to be 450 km away from the border district of Bidar and Patil claimed that based on current information, “there is a 99.99% chance that it will not come to Karnataka. So farmers need not worry.”
Locust has affected around 100 districts in five states --- Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra and they can reach another 12 in the next few weeks. Officials said another swarm from Pakistan is expected to enter India around mid-June, which would provide fuel to locust activity in the region.
In the country’s most agrarian crisis hit Vidarbha region, locust swarms have damaged orange, mango and paddy fields of Bhandara, Gondia, Nagpur and Amravati districts. Swarms of locusts have moved from Kalmeshwar near Nagpur towards Gondia district after attacking crops in neighbouring Bhandara. Joint director (agriculture), Ravi Bhonsale, said a team was rushed to Bhandara on Thursday morning and sprayed pesticides on trees in one km radius in Temani village. “Timely action averted any major loss to crops.”
In Agra, there was a sigh of relief on Thursday as locust from Dausa in Rajasthan moved towards Bhangarh in Rajasthan. “Three locust swarms have moved away from Agra and the one nearest to Agra moved towards Madhya Pradesh due to wind flow. However, threat continued from the locust swarm traced at Dausa, 140 km from Agra,” informed Ram Pravesh Verma, district plant protection officer (DPPO). He said on Thursday a swarm was within 30 kms of Agra but due to sudden change in wind direction it got diverted towards Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. “We are keeping a constant watch,” Verma said, adding some smaller swarms have been killed in Dausa, Rajasthan.
In Rajasthan, locust control has been done over 73,000 hectare out of the 95,000 hectare affected in 24 districts, said Suwa Lal Jat, joint director, plant protection division, agriculture department. “As on today, six districts -- Barmer, Jodhpur, Ganganagar, Dausa, Bikaner and Hanumangarh -- are badly affected,” he said. Jat said one swarm was present on the border of Jaipur and Dausa. This may either settle in Alwar or in Dausa. Alwar is just 100 kms from Delhi.
In other northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttarkhand, agriculture departments have increased the vigil to counter a possible locust attack. Punjab is highly vulnerable as swarms of locust have been seen in Rajasthan’s Hanumanagrh district for the third consecutive day on Thursday.
Bathinda chief agriculture officer Bahadur Singh Sidhu said the Rajasthan government officials had informed that the insecticide spray had a positive impact for locust control. Punjab agriculture secretary KS Pannu said the authorities in Fazilka, Bathinda and Muktsar districts that share boundary with Rajasthan have been equipped with ample stock of pesticides to deal with a possible locust attack.
Like Punjab, Haryana and Uttarakhand agriculture departments have set up district control rooms to coordinate locust control operations. The officials in these states said that drones have also been procured to spray chemicals and fire tenders and trackers with chemicals are on the standby for pest control operations.