Assam Gears Up to Fight Locust Attacks in Spite of No Immediate Threat
The year 2020 has seen a global pandemic in the form of Covid-19, economic downturn, cyclone Amphan, deadly heat waves, raging forest fires and things are not turning for the better as a formidable army of locusts has been on the move. Further, the state of Assam is faced with flood resulting from incessant rains.
Millions of locusts have affected around 100 districts in the five states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra and the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that the voracious crop-destroying insects could reach Bihar and Odisha in the east in the coming weeks. Experts have warned that another swarm of locusts is expected to enter India from Pakistan around mid-June, which would provide fuel to locust activity in the region.
With the locusts traveling eastwards, the state of Assam is gearing up to fight them.
"We have informed all district officers to stay prepared and take necessary precautions. Chemical sprays like pesticides and insecticides have been made available and kept ready," informed Manoj Kumar, Director of Agriculture, Assam.
"Based on the reports we have been receiving, the attack will be vast. We do not know what could be the exact impact of it yet, so we are preparing for the worst,” he told G Plus.
In the same vein, Abdul Jalil, Director of Horticulture, Assam said, “Immediate actions will be taken if the swarms of locusts make their way to Assam and the directorate will provide all technical support required to fight them.”
While there aren't enough standing crops currently in the fields of Assam apart from some horticulture crops, the officials are worried that the locusts may damage seedlings and vegetables sown in recent times.
The desert locust is a species of swarming short-horned grasshopper, known to devour everything in their path, posing an unprecedented threat to food supply and livelihoods of millions of people. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Desert Locust Information Service bulletin, locusts can fly up to 150 km a day and a one-square-kilometre swarm can eat as much food as 35,000 people in one day.
The infestation is a common phenomenon, associated with western Rajasthan and Gujarat from mid-July till November. But an early onset, also ravaging parts that were not necessarily prepared for the crisis, has added pressure on the already struggling farmers, threatening food security of millions of India's poorest.
In order to drive the locusts out, exasperated farmers have been banging plates, whistling or throwing stones at them, and sometimes even lighting fires to smoke them out. But many are just forced to watch in frustration, with the lockdown restricting their access to pesticides and repellents.
To combat the menace, the union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare too has stepped up locust control measures. The government has placed an order for buying 60 spraying machines from a UK-based company and two firms have been finalized for supply of drones for aerial spraying of insecticides for effective control over tall trees and inaccessible areas, the Union Ministry said in a statement this week.
The ministry further added that 15 sprayers will start arriving from Britain in the next 15 days. Besides, 45 more sprayers will be procured in a month or one-and-a-half months. Drones will be used to spray pesticides, while plans are afoot to deploy helicopters for aerial spray.
The control work is in full swing in close coordination with State Agriculture Departments, Local Administration and BSF.
It should be mentioned that as on May 28, the ministry reported some active swarms of immature locusts being active in Barmer, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Bikaner, Suratgarh, Dausa districts of Rajasthan, Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh and Rewa, Morena, Betul, Khandwa districts of Madhya Pradesh and Nagpur and Amravati districts of Maharashtra for which the control operations are in progress.