Climate Change

Locust attack: Bihar conducts mock drills, launches awareness campaign

Locusts around 500 km away from districts. Experts say little possibility of them entering state

By Mohd Imran Khan
Published: Wednesday 10 June 2020
The pests have spread to areas across Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and UP Photo: Vikas Choudhary

The Bihar government’s agriculture department has begun mock drills in villages and launched an awareness campaign, over fears that locust swarms may enter the state. Ten of the state’s districts that border Uttar Pradesh were put high alert. The districts include Aurangabad, Bhojpur, Buxar, Gaya, Gopalganj, Kaimur, Rohtas, Saran, Siwan and West Champaran.

The locusts are around 500 kilometres away (air distance) from the districts, Sunil Kumar Ajay, deputy director of plant protection at the agriculture department, told Down To Earth on June 9, 2020.

The pests have spread to areas across Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and UP. Neighbouring states, including Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal fear potential locust swarms of coming into the states.

Experts, however, said there was little chance of locusts entering these states.

The agriculture department began conducting mock drills in select villages and launched an awareness campaign so farmers are fully prepared if locusts enter the state.

Bihar Agriculture Minister Prem Kumar said all agriculture department officials in the above districts were told to be on alert. The leaves of the department’s plant protection division were suspended keeping any possible attack in mind.

“An advisory was issued to farmers of all panchayats in the districts,” Kumar said, adding that a weekly meeting at district and panchayat levels will be held to review measures on the ground.

Department officials were ordered to request farmers to keep tractors ready with mounted sprayers containing pesticides to target locusts. Officials were directed to use the fire tenders to go for large-scale spraying of pesticides, if required.

There are, so far, no reports of locust sightings in the state.

Mock drills were conducted in 24 panchayats in the 10 districts, said Ajay, who is also the nodal officer at a centralised control room that monitors and ensures quick movement of rescue teams to tackle potential locust swarms.

“It is a part of the exercise to help farmers tackle any potential locust attacks,” he addeds.

More drills will be organised in other villages to share knowledge among farmers on how they can take simple measures against any attacks, according to Ajay.

“One of the most important tips given to farmers is to make loud noises by beating drums, big utensils of steel, brass or by other means to drive locust swarms away,” he said.

“We request them to arrange for any devices that generate loud sounds so locusts get distracted. This is a simple and easy way to protect standing crops from attacks. Farmers are ready for it,” he added.

Farmers were also informed of chlorpyrifos and fipronil, two pesticides and how to spray them to prevent any damage to food crops and vegetables from locusts.

Pamphlets in different Hindi dialects were distributed among farmers in villages in high-alert districts.

Standing crops, including maize, moong and vegetables, are likely to be damaged if locusts enter the state, said Anil Kumar Jha, an official at the agriculture department.

According to RK Sohane, director extension at the Bihar Agriculture University in Bhagalpur district, the university helped the state government by providing expertise to handle likely locust attacks.

“We sent our advisories to district agriculture officers and Krishi Vigyan Kendras (agriculture science centres) to make farmers aware of the threat and what measures they should take to save crops if locusts attacks occurred,” he said.

Agricultural scientists in Bihar have not ruled out the threat of locust swarms in the state.

They, however, said the likely threat of a locust attack was low. There were no reported locust attacks in the state in recent years.

In a scenario where locusts manage to reach Bihar, they may not survive for long as they will breed less due to increasing humidity, according to experts.

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