Locusts' threat: JK govt sounds high alert

In the face of locusts’ threat which have caused extensive damage to crops in many states, J&K government has issued instructions for crop protection.

Swarms of desert locusts have caused extensive damage to crops in eight states including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana.

In this regard principal secretary, Agriculture Production Department, Navin K. Choudhary has asked the Agriculture and allied departments to maintain high alert and take pre-emptive measures to foil any possible locust attack in the UT.

Speaking to Greater Kashmir, Choudhary said directions have been passed to the concerned officials to be on high alert.

“Locust menace has already destroyed standing crops and vegetation across Africa and large parts of West Asia. It is hyperactive currently in the neighbouring countries of Iran and Pakistan and has also entered India in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Our own neighbouring State, the Punjab, is on high alert” he informed.

According to an official handout, the  principal secretary has asked the directors of Agriculture Department Kashmir and Jammu to constitute   division- and district-level teams to monitor influx of locust and take immediate necessary protection measures.

He has also directed the Agricultural Universities in the UT to constitute dedicated teams of scientists, who will analyze the pattern of influx and guide extension workers and farmers in tackling the locust swarms.

Choudhary has further directed all Krishi Vigyan Kendras to “constantly monitor the prediction of wind direction” in each district, as the locusts move with the direction of the wind.  “An early warning regarding wind direction will help full preparedness to tackle the locust swarms on immediate basis,” he said.

Choudhary has directed both directorates to stock Malathium and other chemicals generally used to kill the locust immediately.

Both the directors were asked to immediately procure the chemicals in reasonable quantity and also get in touch with Hindustan Insecticides Limited, which manufactures Malathium.

The Principal Secretary has further directed for maintaining inventory of sprayers in both public and private sector to immediately put them in use, if need arises.  “The sprayers available with the Municipal Corporations could also be put to use.”

Meanwhile, representative of Fire & Emergency Services have conveyed that maximum number of fire tenders shall be made available for spraying if the situation so demands.

According to reports, the central government  is using specialised spraying machines and has set up 11 control rooms to coordinate the response. The government is also inviting tenders for drones for aerial spraying of insecticides.

India’s locust infestation this year is the worst in 26 years, an official said.

The pest, which threatens vegetable and pulse crops, has not impacted rabi (winter) produce in India but the government efforts are on to eliminate the insects before monsoon in order to save the kharif crops, officials from the Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) said on Wednesday.

Locust swarms can cover 50-100 km a day, officials said.

Locusts belong to the family of grasshoppers and are usually harmless but certain environmental conditions like monsoon and heavy cyclones make them reproduce faster. The swarm is highly mobile and covers 50 to more than 100 km in a day.

According to UN body, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the locusts attack pose a threat to food security of the affected countries as an adult locust can eat a quantity equal to its weight of about 2 grams every single day.

A single square kilometre of the swarm can contain somewhere between 4 to 8 crore adult locusts. Every single day, if they cover 130-150 km, they can eat the food consumed by as many as 35,000 people, it said.