New Delhi, May 28 (IndiaToday) – Desert locust swarms have become the latest threat looming large on India amid the series of crises induced by the coronavirus pandemic. With several states in north India struggling to keep the large swarms of locusts at bay, the worst in 27 years, the government has moved to use advanced sprayers and drones to stop acres of crop from being damaged.
The central government has announced a slew of measures, including buying more sprayers to using drones and tractors to stop the locust swarms. The Centre has set up teams with the administrations in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and other states to check the menace.
Desert locusts that first attacked farmlands in Rajasthan have now spread to Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. The Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) has also issued high alerts for Punjab and Haryana where a swarm that is on the move is expected to enter.
Here are top developments on the latest threat of locust swarms:
1. The Union Agriculture Ministry has approved the procurement of 60 additional sprayers from the United Kingdom to spray chemicals on the farms to stop locust swarms from feeding on them.
2. The Ministry of Civil Aviation has approved “conditional exemption to government entity (DPPQS) for use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System for anti-locust operations”. Two firms have been finalised for the use of drones to spray pesticides for locust control.
3. The government has said control operations have been stepped up in the affected states of Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
4. The Uttar Pradesh government has issued an alert as locust swarms are likely to affect crops in 17 districts of the state. These districts are Jhansi, Mahoba, Hamirpur, Agra, Aligarh, Mathura, Bulandshahr, Hathras, Etah, Firozabad, Mainpuri, Etawah, Farrukhabad, Auraiya, Jalaun, Kanpur and Lalitpur. In Jhansi district, which is close to the Madhya Pradesh border, locusts have already damaged the crops.
5. The agriculture ministry has said there are active swarms of immature locust in Barmer, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Bikaner, Ganganagar, Hanumangarh, Sikar, Jaipur districts in Rajasthan and Satna, Gwalior, Seedhi, Rajgarh, Baitul, Devas, Agar Malwa districts of Madhya Pradesh.
6. The government has said 200 Locust Circle Offices (LCO) are conducting survey and control operations in close coordination with district administration and agriculture field machinery of the affected states.
7. Locust control operations are on and 21 districts in Rajasthan, 18 districts in Madhya Pradesh, one district in Punjab and 2 districts in Gujarat have undertaken managed to control the locust menace as of now, said the government.
8. 89 fire brigades for pesticide spray; 120 survey vehicles; 47 control vehicles with spray equipment and 810 tractor mounted sprayers have been deployed for effective locust control while the government is planning to procure 60 additional sprayers from the UK.
9. Locust is an omnivorous and migratory pest and has the ability to fly hundreds of kilometers collectively. It is a trans-border pest and attacks the crop in large swarm. Found in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, they inhabit some 60 countries and can cover one-fifth of Earth’s land surface. The swarms that have entered India have come from Pakistan.
10. The government has further issued an alarm and said, new swarms will migrate to the summer breeding areas along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border as well as to Sudan and West Africa. 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. Good rains are predicted during the first half of June along the Indo-Pakistan border that would allow more egg-laying.