Rajasthan is under the most widespread locust attack of last three decades. Locust swarms coming into India from Pakistan have travelled hundreds of kilometres to spread across most of Rajasthan. The locusts have also reached to districts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
Efforts at containing the swarms are proving insufficient and difficult as the swarms have travelled with the winds to reach districts which are traditionally not attacked by locust swarms.
It was almost thirty years ago in 1993 that a locust attack of such severity was witnessed in Rajasthan.
Monday saw the swarm reach the city areas of Jaipur almost 600 kilometers from the border.
The swarms have been regularly coming across the Indo-Pak Border over the last month. Two to three swarms have been coming from Pakistan almost every alternate day through Jaisalmer, Barmer and Sriganganagar. The locust swarms fly in the direction of the wind and they have been covering almost a hundred kilometres per day to reach most of the state.
The only relief is that the Rabi crop has been harvested and the monsoon crops are yet to be sowed. But the pests have inflicted serious damage to vegetable and fruit crops. This is the time when fodder for cattle is also sown and that too has been damaged.
Reports from districts like Dausa say that entire crops of mango and jamun have been damaged by the locusts.
Speaking to The Free Press Journal B R Karwa, Additional Director Agriculture said, “Control measures are being adopted, but the locust swarms cannot be killed completely. Only about 50 to 70% are killed by the pesticide spray. Further, WHO norms about type of pesticides and concentration need to be followed for the spray. The recommended time is 2 am in the night when the swarm has settled down.”
“This time the swarms have reached non traditional areas with tall trees and vegetation. It is quite different from the traditional attack areas in desert districts. There vegetation is sparse and close to ground so spraying is easy. Now we need spray machines mounted on tractors and even fire brigades to reach the trees where locusts are resting,” added Karwa.
Locust swarms have been coming from Pakistan for almost a year now. They have been defying their traditional behaviour pattern in terms of timing and duration of swarms attack, flying pattern and intensity. The swarms were present all through winter, which is an unheard of phenomenon.
Speaking to The Free Press Journal L S Rathore, former Director General of the Meteorological Department said, “Locust swarms coming for almost a year is unnatural and mismanagement is a major reason for this sustained attack. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) facilitates international collaboration to deal with such cross border exigencies. There has been poor coordination to this end.”
“Most importantly the scientific inputs have been highly questionable. Swarms fly along with the wind and technology has made possible easy availability of wind direction, speed and temperature assessment. Why is it not being used to predict where they will fly to give out advanced warning and work out containment plans? Studies needed to be carried out about the presence of locusts in winter, about mutations and successive generations arising in the area,” added Singh.
It cannot be denied now that ground level efforts to eliminate the swarms will not prove to be enough. India will have to work in tandem with FAO and Pakistan to check these locust swarms.