India has ordered new machines from the UK to control locust swarms that can destroy crops on the India-Pakistan border, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said on Wednesday.
Unfazed by the COVID-19 crisis, government officials in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Punjab are working to control the outbreak of Desert Locust, he said in a statement.
Tractor-mounted sprayers and fire-tender vehicles are deployed at various locations in these states for locust control. Additional equipment are also being procured, he added.
"The central and state governments are working together on the Desert Locust control measures and have been able to check its spread. New machines have been ordered from the United Kingdom and will arrive soon," Tomar said after a video conference with pesticides manufacturers to fine-tune a strategy to prevent locust attack on farm fields.
He said the government will leave no stone unturned to ensure uninterrupted sowing and harvesting operations. Ministers of State for Agriculture Parshottam Rupala and Kailash Choudhary were also present during the video conference.
In the statement, the Agriculture Ministry said that normally, locust swarms enter the desert areas of India via Pakistan for breeding in the summer of June-July, but this time Locust Hoppers as well as Pink Adult Swarms had entered border districts of Rajasthan and Punjab in April itself.
"One reason for this was the uncontrolled swarms of the previous season in Pakistan that breed continuously. Swarms of Pink Immature Adults fly high and travel long distances with strong winds coming from Pakistan. Most of these Pink Immature Adults settle on trees during the night and mostly fly during the day," it said.
Around 10 Locust Circle Offices of Government of India located in Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Phalodi, Barmer, Jalore, Churu, Nagaur, Suratgarh districts of Rajasthan; Palanpur and Bhuj districts of Gujarat are working in scheduled desert area of more than 2 lakh sq km in India.
The locusts are monitored, surveyed and controlled in coordination with the State Agricultural Departments and the concerned District Administration. In addition, pest control in crops is done by the Agriculture Department of the concerned State Government.
"So far (till 11.05.2020), the Hoppers and Pink Swarms have been controlled in an area of 14,299 hectares of Jaisalmer, Sri Ganganagar, Jodhpur, Barmer and Nagaur districts in Rajasthan and Fazilka district of Punjab," the Ministry said.
Presently, swarms of immature Pink Locusts are active in Barmer, Phalodi (Jodhpur), Nagaur, Sriganganagar and Ajmer districts of Rajasthan. Control work started early in the morning, it added.
Tomar said the locust invasion was first noticed last year and the farmers were taken unawares as it took place after decades.
He expressed satisfaction that the losses were checked due to timely action by the Union Agriculture Ministry and the concerned state governments with the support of farmers.
The Centre has compensated farmers who suffered losses from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), he said and added that the global community has lauded India's efforts.
Last year, the state governments had assisted farmers through a scheme on the use of pesticides and tractor mounted sprayer. As a result, a total of 4,03,488 hectares of area was treated and locust swarms controlled, the statement added.