Ahmedabad: Even as Chief Minister Narendra Modi has written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking Central help to tackle the impending threat of locusts visiting the coastal areas of Gujarat, the Centre has sent teams armed with pesticides and specialist equipment to Gujarat. This follows a UN warning that swarms of locusts could cross the Indian Ocean from the Horn of Africa.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a statement on Wednesday that heavy rainfall will create favourable breeding conditions for locusts until October along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border. “We have taken adequate measures and sent teams to Gujarat with chemicals and equipment to prevent any damage,” Farm Secretary P K Mishra told reporters on Thursday. Officials in Gujarat said they were preparing to battle any invasion by desert locusts. Gujarat produces a major part of India’s groundnut oilseeds crop, the sowing of which has just begun with the arrival of annual monsoon rains.
It is also a key cotton producer. “Villages have been alerted, trenches are being dug, and training to use empty vessels or canisters to make a loud noise has been imparted to shoo away swarms of locusts,” the state’s agriculture director, R Serasia, told Reuters. Two control rooms in northern Gujarat had been set up, but no insects had yet reached India, officials said. Earlier, Modi in his letter wrote that Kutch was a traditional locust visitation area and therefore locusts flying from Somalia may come to Kutch.
He said that some locusts had been sighted in the district. In his letter, Modi has said that the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of United Nations in Rome had already issued locust warning a week ago. Modi has added that locusts can destroy agriculture in the areas in the monsoon season. He has requested the Prime Minister to ask the Union Ministry of Agriculture to extend all possible help to the State in tackling the impending threat. He added that districts like Kutch, Banaskantha, Patan, Rajkot and Surendranagar are likely to be hit by the locusts.
Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) statement said desert locusts had in the past crossed the Indian Ocean on monsoon winds as part of a natural migration cycle. Swarms from Ethiopia and northern Somalia could arrive in India and Pakistan “in the next days”, it said.
Gujarat officials said grasslands and fields in the state’s Kutch, Banaskantha, Patan, Porbander, Rajkot and Jamnagar regions were the most vulnerable. “The epidemic may require emergency aerial spraying,” a senior agriculture official, Avinash Kumar, said.
Gujarat was hit by a minor locust attack in 1993, when houses and fields were infested in several districts. The FAO statement said that a “very small part of an average swarm eats as much food in one day as about 2,500 people”.
Courtesy: Ahmedabad Newsline - Ahmedabad,India