The Haryana government Saturday issued a high alert after a swarm of locusts measuring 5 km in length and 2 km in width entered state”s Mahendragarh district from Rajasthan before dividing into two parts and settling in Rewari and Gurgaon. The officials estimated that nearly 2 crore locusts were part of the swarm that moved through Faridabad, and Jhajjar too but did not inflict any major damage.
“It is a huge swarm consisting 1.5 crore to 2 crore locusts. Initially, the swarm of 5 km in length and 2 km in width entered in Mahendragarh and then moved to Rewari district where it settled in 12 villages,” Haryana additional chief secretary (agriculture) Sanjeev Kaushal told The Indian Express.
“Heavy insecticide spray was done during the night and early morning. About 35 per cent of the swarm was destroyed, but the rest which was still huge in number took off from there and crossed Jhajjar district and then got on to Gurgaon,” he said.
The officials anticipate that the swarms may move to Uttar Pradesh from Gurgaon via Palwal keeping in view “the wind velocity and direction”. “But it may also move to Sonipat and Panipat too before moving to Uttar Pradesh,” added Kaushal. The locusts move with the flow of wind and may travel 100-150 kms in a day.
Meanwhile, the Union Agriculture Ministry said ground control teams are constantly tracking swarms and will undertake major control operations once locusts settle down. The control operations are underway in Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. “More control teams from Rajasthan have been moved to Haryana and UP to help in the locust control operations being carried out in these two states,” the ministry said in a statement.
Haryana Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister JP Dalal, who rushed to Rewari to monitor the operation, said the locusts can be attacked only when they settle in the night. “When the locusts entered Haryana, they were in one swarm but parted in two and moved to Gurgaon via Jhajjar on Saturday morning,” said Dalal.
Dalal said Mahendragarh, Bhiwani, Jhajjar and Rewari districts had been put on alert on Friday itself.
About Rewari district, he said 15 fire tenders, besides several tractor-mounted spray facilities were pressed into service during the night-long operation, which was carried out and personally monitored by Deputy Commissioner Yashendra Singh. Dalal said even experts from the central government who visited Rewari to take stock of the situation had appreciated the timely measures taken by the district administration.
As per initial reports, according to Kaushal, “the locusts have affected cotton and bajra crop in 2,000-2,500 hectare but the extent of damage has been estimated at only 5-10 per cent”.
In Gurgaon, the locust warning had been issued Friday night, advising residents to keep their windows and doors closed and gather together in the event of an attack and make loud noises by beating tin cans, plates and drums to ward off the insects.
Meanwhile, Deputy Director of the Agriculture Department in Gurgaon, Atmaram Godara, said that before passing through Gurgaon Saturday, the swarm had divided into four — two passed over Gurgaon towards Delhi, while one went towards Jhajjar and the other to Nuh.
“However, due to the change in wind direction, eventually, even the groups that had moved towards Delhi and Jhajjar went towards Faridabad and Nuh instead,” said Godara.
According to officials, around 200 tractor trolleys with spray pumps were arranged in Gurgaon, and around 2,000 litres of Chlorpyrifos, a drug used as a chemical deterrent, was procured to spray on locusts in Gurgaon.
“Fortunately, there has been no damage in Gurgaon as the swarm flew through the district without descending anywhere,” Godara said.
In Jhajjar, where locusts arrived around 8 am, officials said they had already received a warning on the arrival of the swarms from Rewari district. Sarpanches of villages in the district were alerted, and villagers were already present in their fields when the swarm descended. In Faridabad, similarly, Deputy Commissioner Yashpal Yadav said that the administration had been prepared for the attack, and no damage had been sustained.
Later in the day, a small swarm of locusts had entered South Delhi’s Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary area near the Haryana border, Delhi Development Minister Gopal Rai said, adding that the State forest department has been asked to sound dhols, drums and DJ music and spray chemicals to control the swarm. South, west and southwest Delhi districts were put on high alert and the district magistrates were asked to make preparations.
Meanwhile, Kuashal said the residents in urban areas need not worry. “The swarm is scary but wouldn’t cause harm. Normally, the locust swarm doesn’t settle in urban areas,” he said, adding “the locusts cause damage in the crops only”.
“We have insecticides in sufficient quantities apart from tractor –mounted spray guns which may be deployed wherever necessary,” added Kaushal.
On their part, the farmers beat `thalis’ and other utensils in a bid to ward off the locusts. The officials said WhatsApp groups have been formed to disseminate information to the farmers about the movement of the insects. A control room was set up to provide advance information to the farmers and an announcement was also done in the villages.
About a month ago too, the Haryana government had put its officials on alert when the “tiddi dal” had attacked crops in neighbouring Rajasthan but the locusts had moved away to different directions that time.
Earlier in January, locusts were spotted in some villages in Punjab’s Fazilka and Muktsar districts but were effectively contained then.
“Since the locusts had entered India from Pakistan about six months ago, the Haryana government had started advance preparations to deal with any attack. The locusts first made their way to Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and now have entered Haryana,” said Dalal.
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