All Punjab districts have been put on alert after locust swarms reached several villages in Rajasthan’s Ganganagar and Hanumangarh districts. These Rajasthan villages border Punjab’s Fazilka, Bathinda and Muktsar districts.
But alert has been sounded in all districts in the state as locusts can travel anywhere depending upon wind speed and direction. From Rajasthan, the swarm has also entered Madhya Pradesh over the past few days.
“It can travel anywhere depending upon speed of wind and direction of wind, hence we have sounded alert in all districts of Punjab,” Punjab’s Director Agriculture Sutantar Kumar told The Indian Express.
Control rooms have been set up in each district and farmers have been asked to report any activity of locusts, he said.
For the time being, an amount of Rs 1 crore has been allocated for controlling the locust attacks. A detailed action plan to check the invasion of locust swarms has been prepared by the state Agriculture Department, the officials of the department said.
As part of the plan, agriculture officers have been asked to maintain strict vigil in their respective areas. Surveys will be conducted, especially in areas bordering Pakistan and Rajasthan. Spray pumps will also be made available by the agriculture department to villagers to effectively contain any locust attack.
Head of Entomology Department, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), P K Chhuneja said there has been a massive population build-up of locusts and there is an imminent threat to agriculture and vegetation, particularly in states bordering Pakistan.
The agriculture department and the PAU have been keeping a strict vigil and are carrying out surveillance and checking incursions through suitable means, with information support from the Locust Warning Organisation, he said.
In Bathinda, a meeting was also conducted about containing the attacks. Bahadur Singh Sandhu, Chief Agriculture Officer, said, “Villagers are being told to stay alert and form a team with our farmer friends so as to kill the swarm when they spot it. It was seen in Goluwala village in Hanumangarh and hence we need to stay alert.”
Director Agriculture added, “We have appointed one farmer friend for every two villages, who is coordinating with the farmers. We have also purchased 500 litres of cholropiriphos insecticide. Buffer stocks have been kept in Bathinda, Ludhiana apart from giving supplies to all districts along with spray pumps, spray guns. Fire brigade vehicles are to be arranged from respective districts.”
Locusts, popularly known as ‘tiddi dal’, are known to devour vegetation wherever they settle. On Wednesday morning, the ‘tiddi dal’ was seen in 30 sq km area of Goluwala village of Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan, which is about 25 km away from last village of in Fazilka.
On May 13, it was spotted in Daulatpura village in Fazilka but was controlled by the local agriculture team.
In February, few operations had also been conducted in Fazilka and Bathinda to control the swarms’ movements by killing them with pesticides.
Locusts are short-horned grasshoppers with highly migratory habits and voracious feeding behaviour. India has not witnessed any full-blown locust cycles after 1962. However, during 1978 and 1993, large-scale upsurges were observed.
The swarm has a capacity of travelling 150 km a day and its direction is difficult to predict. The Agriculture Director added, “Swarm sits in any area in the evening and settles, it gets active, the next day. Farmers have been asked to alert us if they spot any tiddi dal in any of the villages in evening.”
(WITH PTI INPUTS)
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