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Locust swarm splits into two; fourth district in state gets hit

By Badri Chatterjee, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAY 27, 2020 11:38 PM IST

The locust swarm that entered Maharashtra earlier this week made its way to Bhandara on Wednesday, making it the fourth district to be affected.

After pesticide was sprayed at Katol tehsil in Nagpur between Monday night and Tuesday morning, the swarm split into two groups; one moving towards Parseoni in Nagpur while the other entered Bhandara, said officials.

At 10pm Wednesday, officials from the agricultural department were able to trace the movement of the locust swarm to Temani village, Tumsar taluka in Bhandara. “The swarm travelled over 100km on Wednesday from Andhalgaon, Mohadi taluka back into Ramtek tehsil in Nagpur, and again into Tumsar Bhandara. They have settled at orchards surrounding Temani where we will carry out overnight insecticide spraying drive to kill majority of the population,” said Ravindra Bhosale, divisional joint director agriculture.

“The original distribution of the main 10-km-long and 2-km-wide swarm has reduced. We are facing trouble estimating exact numbers or current length of the swarms without satellite data since they move very fast,” said Bhosale.

The state agriculture department issued a ‘locust warning alert’ for all 11 districts in Vidarbha and four districts in north Maharashtra — Nandurbar, Dhule, Nashik and Jalgaon — to keep a lookout for locusts near farmlands, take preventive measures, and inform state authorities, said officials. A similar advisory was issued by the India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) agromet division for Vidarbha. “Large scale damage to fruit orchards is being expected across affected districts, and farmers need to take care,” said an IMD official.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates the swarms can be as many as 40 to 80 million. However, the Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) said the escaping population that entered Maharashtra would not be more than 5 million.

Along with five other states, Maharashtra is witnessing a surge of rapidly reproducing crop munching pests that can fly up to 150km a day and has the potential to impact food production.

The swarm has invaded farmlands and fruit orchards across two talukas in Amravati, one in Wardha, and four in Nagpur till Wednesday morning. “By afternoon, we were informed that the swarm had entered Bhandara district near Andhalgaon in Mohadi taluka,” said Bhosale, who is in-charge of six Vidarbha districts. Containment efforts with the help from fire department were carried out at Parseoni on Tuesday night, he added.

So far, control operations have been carried out across 85 hectares (ha) — 50 ha in Nagpur and 35 ha in Amravati.

“As the swarm settles atop trees at night, we are using pesticide solution of 2.4 millilitres of Chlorpyrifos (pesticide) per litre of water or 1,200 ml of the pesticide in 500 litres of water to be sprayed across one hectare area,” said Subhash Nagare, divisional joint director agriculture and in-charge of remaining five Vidarbha districts.

Meanwhile, agricultural department has asked orange and mango orchard owners in Vidarbha to use noise and smoke to drive away the pests. “Farmers have been banging steel utensils within their orchards, forcing the short horned grasshoppers to rush to adjoining fields. Other measures include lighting small fires emanating voluminous smoke and spraying neem-based pesticides,” said Nagare.

Camera traps at Powai to track leopard movement

The Mumbai forest range and wildlife NGOs have set up camera traps to check the presence of suspected leopard movement at an apartment complex in Raheja Vihar in Powai. While residents said they spotted a leopard at the society, the forest department said there was no proof of the animal’s presence.

“Leopard movement has not been observed in the past in this area. Along with conducting an awareness drive to ensure residents feel safe, the camera trap images will give us an exact idea,” said Jitendra Ramgaonkar, deputy conservator of forest, Thane.

Two weather systems in Arabian Sea, no warnings for Mumbai as of now: IMD

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Wednesday clarified that two weather systems in the Arabian Sea would not be affecting Mumbai as of now. An existing cyclonic circulation over south west Arabian Sea is likely to concentrate into a depression in the same region. However, a second system formation is expected around May 30 towards south east Arabian Sea which is likely to be a low pressure area. However, no warnings have been issued by IMD yet as officials said the development of the system needs to be observed.

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