The massive locust attack of December has affected about 25,000 hectares of land in two of the worst-hit North Gujarat districts of Banaskantha and Patan.

The State government has assessed the damages and announced relief assistance to about 11,000 farmers from 285 villages in the 15 talula across these two districts. About 24,750 hectares is affected in Banaskantha, while in Patan the affected area is about 750 hectares.

The Gujarat Agriculture Minister R C Faldu stated on Tuesday that the government has asked the administration to release the relief funds quickly. "The affected farmers will be given relief assistance of Rs 13,500 as per the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) norms and an additional Rs 5000 from the State's Krishi Sahay Package. Total assistance works out to be Rs 18,500 per hectare per farmer with a ceiling of two hectares," Faldu said.

After the high-intensity attack by a huge swarms of locusts in mid-December, the State government and Centre had launched a combat operation on war-footing and after about a week-long operation, they claim to have eliminated most of the locusts.

Latest sightings

While the administration has confirmed that no locusts have been found in Banaskantha and other neighbouring districts, there are reports of fresh sightings of the insect in some parts of the Kutch districts.

Sources from the district’s Abdasa taluka have raised concerns about the presence of insects. The authorities have also confirmed the fresh sightings of locusts in Kutch district. "There is a small swarm of locust at a village in Abdasa taluka. But it will be controlled within a day as both the State and Central teams are taking combative measures. The state administration is trakcing it continuously with sprays when the swarm settles," an official stated.

It is believed that the latest swarm has emerged following hatching of the eggs laid by the earlier one. The climate and the wind directions provide support to the locust movement and allow them to spread.

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations had issued alert about a possible massive locust attack in the South Asia covering Pakistan and India.

The Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) in Jodhpur had also predicted its trajectory - crossing the international border from Pakistan and entering India via Rajasthan. But the wind directions pushed the swarms into Gujarat from the northern districts.

Besides Banaskantha and Patan, the districts of Mehsana, Kutch and Sabarkantha had also reported presence of locusts but were brought under control with preventive measures.

There were total 18 operational Central teams, who had expertise in using the hazardous - highly toxic chemical - 96 per cent malathion, the State teams used Chlorpyrifos (CPS) 20 per cent and 50 per cent for sprayers.