Updated: January 29, 2020 12:01:19 pm
Amid sighting of locusts in several villages of three districts in Punjab raising fear of the pest attack on crops, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to raise the issue with Pakistan for taking effective steps to check the pests from breeding there.
Amarinder urged Modi to direct the Union Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian High Commission in Islamabad to immediately take up the issue of locusts’ attack with the government of Pakistan, from where the pests were emanating.
In his letter, Amarinder said there has recently been a sustained attack of locust swarms on crops in Rajasthan. A significant number of these pests have also entered the neighbouring areas of southern Punjab.
“Although Rajasthan has been taking the required action to control this locust attack, the best method of control is to manage the breeding ground itself, which incidentally falls in the adjoining desert area of Pakistan,” he wrote.
He emphasized the need to take up this issue directly with the government of Pakistan and press them to take effective steps to sanitize the breeding areas of these locusts.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, which is mandated to control locusts internationally, may also be asked to take effective steps in Pakistan to control breeding to ensure that these do not develop into dangerous swarms which can cause havoc to crops, wrote the CM.
At the national level, a coordinated locust control mechanism should be made effective by the use of modern technology, and helicopters and drones for spraying insecticides, to control the spread of pestilence, he said.
The chief minister further suggested that the union ministry of agriculture should also coordinate with the FAO to ensure that the breeding grounds are sanitised and brought under control.
The Punjab CM warned that any failure to control the swarms of locusts could lead to serious implications and consequences for agricultural production, especially in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat, which will ultimately affect commodity prices and food security of the country.
Locusts, popularly known as ‘Tiddi Dal’, were spotted in some villages of Punjab’s Fazilka, Muktsar and Bathinda districts that had triggered fear among farmers as the destructive swarms of pests are known to devour the vegetation wherever they settle. Farmers have been beating empty steel utensils with sticks in their fields to scare the insects away.
The state’s agriculture department has already pressed into service several special monitoring and survey teams in the vulnerable parts of southern Punjab to keep a close tab on the situation around the clock. These teams have been constantly surveying the Punjab districts in the vicinity of Rajasthan border.
Earlier, surveillance by scientists of Punjab Agricultural University at Abohar had revealed the presence of locusts in small numbers or groups (5 to 20 hoppers) in these three districts and had said that these hoppers in small groups would not cause any economic damage to agricultural and horticultural crops.
Locusts are short-horned grasshoppers with highly migratory habits and voracious feeding behaviour. Their appearance in the winter months is a new phenomenon.
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