Three days after swarms of locusts were spotted in the semi-arid district of Kutch, government agencies and farmers are trying to tackle the insect attack on war-footing. Union Minister Parsottam Rupala visited the district on Sunday to take stock and said the situation was under control.
Farmers of Lakhpat, Nakhtrana, Bhuj and Abadasa talukas of Kutch district reported swarms of locusts, a type of grasshoppers that attack crops, on Saturday. Since then, the swarms have been moving from one village to another but government officers claim no widespread damage has been caused. In the past four days, the insects were reported from at least 15 villages of these talukas.
“At present, there is no loss to crop. We have got four special spray pumps from Rajasthan through Locust Warning Office from where we have mobilised teams. Talatis (revenue clerks) and gram sevaks from villages are tracking the insect movement. We are spraying special pesticides and have asked farmers to dig trenches round their fields to trap the insects,” Prabhav Joshi, district development officer (DDO) of Kutch told The Indian Express on Tuesday.
Joshi said that at present, the swarms were concentrated in four coastal villages in Lakhpat taluka. “Locusts remain inactive during evening and morning and our teams are targeting them during this period. We have set up a control room to monitor the situation and there is sufficient stock of pesticides. We are sensitising farmers so that they can keep these insects at bay by making noise or smoke,” Joshi further said adding he had not received any report of any farmer having complained of crop damage in locust attack.
Four species of locusts – desert locust, migratory locust, Bombay locust and tree locust – are found in India. The desert locust is more common and afflicts parts of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana. Locust Warning Organisation, a Central government body, is responsible for issuing warnings and monitoring and controlling locusts attacks. Officers with the agriculture department said that Locust Circle Office of LWO in Bhuj, the district headquarters of Kutch, was monitoring the situation.
“LCO is spraying high-concentration pesticide in desert or government wastelands where human movement is low but where hoppers have been spotted. On agricultural fields, we are spraying low-concentration chlorpyrifos insecticide,” Puspakant Swarnkar, assistant director of agriculture in Kutch, said.
Following reports of locust attack, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Parsottam Rupala, visited Moti Chher village in Lakhpat taluka of Kutch on October 20 to take stock of the situation.
“Locust attack has been reported in Barmer of Rajasthan but the situation is under control there. The swarms of locusts from Barmer have crossed into Kutch via the desert. But due to alertness of administration from the very beginning, no major damage has been reported in Kutch. Locusts swarms are being controlled by continuously spraying pesticides in grasslands and agricultural fields where they are spotted,” said Rupala, according to an official release from the Press Information Bureau.
Incidentally, Kutch district received good rainfall this year and farmers have done sowing in 6.22 lakh hectares in the district. The crops include fodder, castor, cotton, guar, groundnut, pearl millet and pulses. However, the locust attack poses threat to the standing crops.
Last major locust attack in India was reported in 1997, while a local small-scale breeding was reported in 2010. From 2010 to 2013, the situation was calm, says LWO.