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Gujarat battles worst locust attack

By Vinay Umarji
December 29, 2019 13:02 IST
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Swarms in about 3,526 hectares of 5,000 hectares under control; farmers burn tyres or dry straw, play loud music and beat steel plates, and use large fans to destroy or drive away the pests, reports Vinay Umarji

IMAGE: A man sprays insecticides to kill locusts near Miyal village in Banaskantha district of Gujarat. Photograph: PTI Photo

Gujarat has claimed that it has been able to bring the locusts swarm attack under control barring a couple of isolated locations.

On a war footing now, the state government has deployed 100 tractor-mounted pesticide sprayer teams along with 16 from the Central government to tackle the locust menace, according to Punamchand Parmar, additional chief secretary for Agriculture, Farmers Welfare and Cooperation Department, Government of Gujarat. He claimed the operation was "overall successful".

"The spread of locusts has been controlled. A two-day operation on December 26 and 27 in Tharad taluka was successful. Now, only a few isolated locations are left. including one in Jorapura, Dhanera and another in Kuchavada of Deesa taluka, where the central and state teams are working. Another eight teams of the Government of India are working in Sanchor, Rajasthan, where the locusts of Tharad went yesterday," Parmar said.

 

While a change in wind direction has reportedly turned the swarm towards Balochistan in Pakistan, Parmar said there are not too many left to go. The situation is likely to be brought fully under control by Sunday.

However, the Gujarat government has now assured compensation to farmers in the northern parts of the state, who have been affected by the recent swarm attack.

Till Friday, the state government had said locusts in about 25 per cent of affected area had been controlled with pesticide spraying.

While Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has assured compensation to aggrieved farmers in north Gujarat, their demand for electricity during the day has also been addressed. Farmers had sought power during the day to run water pumps and ward off the pests by playing loud music or making noises.

WATCH: Villages of Gujarat hit due to locust attack

 

According to Parmar, large swarms of locusts has been found across 124 villages in 17 talukas of four districts. These include 114 villages from 13 talukas in Banaskantha district, five in one taluka of Mehsana, four in two talukas of Patan district, and one village in one taluka of Sabarkantha district.

However, 27 state survey teams, the Centre's 19 locust control teams and 25 local tractor-mounted sprayers have brought locusts covering 3,526 hectares under control.

State estimates put the total locust-affected area at 5,000 hectares in north Gujarat. "Based on wind patterns, it seems the swarms are no more likely to enter Gujarat but may move towards Pakistan," an official had stated on Friday.

However, ever since the first sighting a few weeks ago, farmers have been applying household solutions to combat the swarms. Some burnt tyres or dry straw, played drums and musical DJs, and operated large fans besides beating steel plates.

Meanwhile, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare, Parshottam Rupala, ruled out use of helicopters for spraying pesticides to destroy the pests, stating that the practice posed a bigger health risk for animals and farmers alike. Instead, the government now plans to experiment with drones for spraying of the malathion pesticide, even as traditional methods like beating steel plates and playing loud music are being used to ward off locusts.

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Vinay Umarji
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