A massive army of locusts from Pakistan has invaded farms in Gujarat, The Hindu reported on Thursday. The newborn locusts, which crossed the international border three days ago, have ravaged farms in North Gujarat, especially in the three border districts of Banaskantha, Patan and Kutch.
The locusts have ravaged crops such as castor, cumin, jatropha, cotton, and potato. This is the first time since 1993-’94 that Gujarat has witnessed such a locust invasion, according to the newspaper. The state administration has launched a huge pesticide-spraying operation to kill the insects, and the Centre has deployed 27 specialised teams to combat the locusts, News18 reported.
“It’s a massive issue in Banaskantha, Patan, Kutch and parts of Sabarkantha and Mehsana,” said Gujarat Agriculture Minister RC Faldu. “We are trying to help farmers in containing damage to their crops.” He added that the government had also explored the possibility of sprinkling pesticides and chemicals through helicopters in affected areas.
Banaskantha is the worst-affected district. The insects fly in during the day and settle on the farms at night, making it difficult to ward them off.
Farmers are using innovative methods to fight off the insects. They have been beating drums and vessels, and using fans to scare away the insects, but without much success. In Banaskantha, farm owners have hired labourers to beat drums and even used DJs.
Earlier this year, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation had warned of a locust invasion in South Asia, especially Pakistan and India. The Locust Warning Organization, based in the city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan, had noticed the swarms and predicted their trajectory across the international border. However, authorities in Gujarat took no action.
The state agriculture minister blamed the neighbouring state of Rajasthan for the insect invasion, reported News18. “We have controlled locusts from Pakistan but the swarms from Rajasthan are uncontrollable,” Faldu said. Gujarat is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, while the Congress is in power in Rajasthan.