Locust attack has become a major cause of concern for many states in India amidst the Coronavirus crisis.
A locust swarm had entered India from Pakistan on its western borders at the start of the year.
Currently, parts of Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh have been swarmed by the locusts, posing a threat to crops spread over thousands of hectares.
Rajasthan has been the worst impacted with the menace. State Agriculture Minister Lalchand Kataria said that on April 11, small groups of locusts reached Rajasthan after over from Pakistan. Around 50,000 hectare area has been affected by them. However, farmers have not suffered much loss as there are no standing crops in this season in western Rajasthan districts this time.
Speaking on the matter, chief minister Ashok Gehlot said that there is a need to strengthen the Locust Warning Organisation.
Addressing Agriculture Department officials, District Collectors and Locust Warning Organisation officials, over video conference, he said: “This time, the locust attack has been quite different as these locusts have moved from the border areas to Ajmer, Jaipur, Karauli, Tonk, Dausa, Sawai Madhopur and other districts.”
“We have to work new ways to control them,” he said, adding that the Prime Minister’s attention was also drawn towards the issue during the video conference held with him recently. Since the Locust Warning Organisation comes under the Centre, the Central government should strengthen it and provide necessary resources, he added.
Gehlot further said that that due to the outbreak of locusts, farmers last year suffered a big loss. Locust invasion is expected to be more intense this year and in such situation, we will have to face this challenge with complete efficiency, he said.
Following information about a swarm of locusts in Rajasthan’s Karauli, an alert has been issued in Uttar Pradesh’s Agra to take steps like beating drums in fields and producing smoke to keep locust away.
Farmers have been advised to clear the grass on boundary of fields to protect it from grasshoppers, as it lays eggs in the grass. Grasshoppers are afraid of noise and in the event of their large scale presence, farmers should beat drums, plates, etc. so that they flee away.
In view of reports of a possible locust attack in Uttar Pradesh, the Department of Cane Development has started farmer awareness campaign to protect the sugarcane crop from locust or grasshoppers in Uttar Pradesh.
Uttar Pradesh Cane Commissioner, Sanjay Bhoosreddy has issued instructions to all departmental officers and scientists of Sugarcane Research Centers to conduct awareness campaign among farmers to protect the sugarcane crop from these pests in the state.
Desert locusts earlier this week swarmed several districts in western Madhya Pradesh. Millions of locusts were seen on trees and in Rana Heda village near Panbihar in Ujjain district reminding the scenes of pre-independence Rajasthan.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) had in February issued a warning about twin invasion of desert locusts coming to India starting in May, but an official said that the country is prepared to meet the challenge.
According to the FAO, the world is facing one of the worst infestations of locusts in decades and that could put millions of people, especially in Africa, at risk of starvation.
The FAO and UN had made an appeal for $70 million in funds to help fight the locust menace.