Maharashtra government extends support to farmers amidst locust attack

Yolanda Curtis
May 29, 2020

The locust swarms first originated in the Middle East after two 2018 cyclones facilitated an unusually long breeding period.

Locust attacks have already wrecked pastures and crops across swathes in Africa.

This is the worst locust infestation India has seen since 1993, but swarms are not new to the country.

In India, swarms of locusts, invading agriculture fields in the northwest are destroying the seasonal crops. Usually they arrive from Pakistan between July and October and remain focused in Rajasthan. This year, western Rajasthan received monsoon about six weeks earlier than normal.

Pakistan's Information Minister Shibli Faraz told media that the government has formed national strategy against the desert locust and the proposed cell is part of it.

Locusts are insects belonging to grasshopper family named Acrididae. "For the locusts to move towards Delhi from Rajasthan, the wind has to blow from west to east. This year, they are younger, immature adults who fly faster and cover distances of up to 150km per day". He promised that agriculture was a top priority of the government, and all possible steps would be taken to protect crops from any danger "with a special focus on locust attacks". Reportedly they can eat 423 million pounds of plants every day. The drones are helping track the voracious insects as they destroy crops, increasing fears over food security and economic malaise in a country already battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, he said the federal government had been repeatedly warned of the threat posed by locust attacks to the economy, but the center had ignored it.

Swarms of locusts - short-horned grasshoppers - have invaded agriculture fields in both countries decimating crops and risking starvation in the region. There the locusts were killed in crores.

Speaking at a high-level review meeting at Pragathi Bhavan, he said collectors and police officials of the districts bordering the two states have been alerted, and fire engines, jetting machines and pesticides have been organised to spray the locusts. The government is also holding consultations with global experts. Awareness campaigns were conducted for farmers in the state as the swarm can be detrimental to the sugarcane crops.

"If we spray the vegetation, trees and plants with chemical in anticipation of a locust attack, we should also consider how unsafe it will be for the environment", he said.

Beyond scheduled desert areas, temporary control camps have also been set up at Jaipur, Chittorgarh, Dausa in Rajasthan; Sheopur, Neemuch, Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh and Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh for locust control. These insects are likely to wipe out tons of food grains and vegetables if the locust attacks continue. Though the chances are less that the locusts would enter Telangana, the Chief Minister chose to take all the precautions.

During a press conference last night, he disclosed that India and Pakistan have a channel of communication - at the level of locust officials - to address the issue in annual meetings. Another film titled "Swarm" in which ferocious African bees make an entry in America in massive swarms have come into discussion among movie goers.

As how the desert lands are required for the locusts, green vegetation is also required for the swarm's development. Click the link to subscribe.

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