Agri Business

Locusts swarm North Gujarat as helpless farmers seek govt action

Our Bureau Ahmedabad | Updated on December 24, 2019

Fearful villagers use DJs, thali-belan, drums as weapon to fight the insect

The migratory insect - locust has swarmed the Northern parts of Gujarat, causing significant damage to the agriculture.

The attack of this scale - not seen in at least about two decades - has wrecked havoc in Banaskantha and adjoining districts, where it is believed to have migrated from Pakistan through the bordering Rajasthan.

The Gujarat Agriculture Minister RC Faldu confirmed the impact of the attack in the district of Banaskantha, where groundnut, castor and cotton were main kharif crops, while rabi sowing was done on about 5 lakh hectares for mustard, cumin and wheat.

“The insect has come from Oman side and due to wind directions it got diverted to North Gujarat. We have initiated the spraying of the insecticides to help the farmers. About 87 villages in Banaskantha have been hit due to this locust attack. We are taking all precautionary measures in the adjoining regions to stop its spread,”Faldu said on Tuesday.

However, according to farmer sources in Palanpur in Banaskantha, the government measures are inefficient as it is based primarily on the traditional methods - beating the drums, steel thalis with belan (rolling sticks), playing loud DJ music during the day time.

“The government is doing too little too late to combat these insects. They are monsters - because wherever they settle on a field, they destroy everything including the vegetation. The administration is asking the farmers and villagers to make noise to blow them away. Why can't the government use choppers to spray the insecticides?” asks Ramanbhai Patel, a farmer and commodity trader in Palanpur market. The locals claim that the scale of the locust attack is not seen at least in past two decades.

It is clear that the State government was caught off-guard because the International body, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations had earlier alerted about a massive locust attack in the South Asia covering Pakistan and India. Also, the Locust Warning Organization (LWO) in Jodhpur had noticed it and predicted its trajectory by crossing the international border and entering India.

Meanwhile, the damage in the adjoining districts of Patan, Mehsana, Kutch and Sabarkantha has been contained and brought under control with preventive measures.

In Mehsana, the district administration had initiated spraying of the insecticides in the probable areas. "There were about 8-10 villages affected with the locust attack. But since last night, they have moved out and flew towards back to Banaskantha from where they entered our district," an official in Mehsana collectorate informed.

The Kutch district has reported the presence of locust but no damage to the crop. “We have some reports on the presence of locusts, which we believe are new-born or coming out of the eggs. But we are equipped to contain their spread,” told another official at Kutch Collectorate.

The government officials in Sabarkantha stated that there were minor reports of locust presence in about two villages and the preventive measures are being taken. “Since this insect changes its course of travel based on the wind direction, we can’t predict or rule out any possibility of attack in coming days,” stated a government official.

Published on December 24, 2019

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