Locust attack: Bihar sounds alarm, asks officials to stay nights in areas under threat

The agriculture department suspects locusts will enter through state’s western border

By C K Manoj
Published: Friday 12 June 2020
The Bihar agricultural department said it has sounded alert in at least 10 districts. Photo: Dhaneesh Bhaskar

The Bihar agriculture department has sounded an alarm over possible locust attack: It has ordered officials to stay nights in the villages along the border, armed with pesticides.

Officials said the locust swarms had reached Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh, around 200 kilometres from Bihar’s western border, as on June 12, 2020.

“Locusts can travel up to 150-200 km a day. This means they are very close to us (Bihar). But we are ready to fight them off,” deputy director of plant protection, agriculture department, Sunil Kumar Ajay told Down to Earth.

He added that they have sounded alert in at least 10 districts: Kaimur, Rohtas, Buxur, Bhojpur, Gaya, Aurangabad, Saran, Siwan, Gopalganj and West Champaran. All of them are close to Bihar’s western border.

“We have made all arrangements and alerted everyone, including our officials, farmers and panchayat officials,” Ajay said. He added that a single swarm has up to 50-60 million adult locusts in over a kilometre.

Agriculture department officials have been asked to rush to villages near state’s western border and keep an eye on their movement.

“We have asked officials from the 10 districts located on the western border to be ready with at least 150-200 litres of pesticides,” Ajay said, adding the chemical shop owners, too, have been asked to be ready with adequate stocks of pesticides.

District agriculture officer of Buxur, Krishna Nand Chakravarti, said they are ready with fire brigades, tractors, sprayers and have alerted the villagers in 54 villages near the border. Buxur is one of the districts located on the western border of the state.

“Swarm of locusts normally travel during night hours (11 pm to 4 am) and fly in the morning. But even in this short duration, they destroy everything,” said Chakravarti.

He added that the agriculture department has also alerted farmers and Gram Rakshja Dal members, who are training villagers on ways to combat locusts by “beating drums, utensils, playing DJ and with the sound of tractors”.

Another border district, Gopalganj, has formed Gram Tiddi Raksha Dal and engaged farmers to fight the possible attack. It also formed panchayat committees on block- and district-level.

“We have made arrangements at every level and are ready with sound-making instruments,” Gopalganj district agriculture officer Ved Narayan Singh said.

Agriculture experts said crops, fruits and vegetables could be heavily damaged. Although Rabi season is over, maize crops, mung plantation and vegetables are ready to be harvested in many parts of the state.

“The maize crop has reached the cob stage. If locusts eat their leaves, it will damage at least 75 per cent of the plantation,” said agriculture expert Manoj Kapri.

“Locusts eat away the leaves within 20 minutes. One can imagine the damage they can cause,” another agriculture expert Hari Mohan Mishra said.

A single locust, he said, weighs two grams but consumes an equal amount. “Imagine what will happen if these millions of locusts sit on plants and vegetables,” he said.

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