India's Gujarat state witnesses locust outbreak

Source: Xinhua| 2019-12-26 19:06:46|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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NEW DELHI, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- The western Indian state of Gujarat is witnessing a locust outbreak, officials said Thursday.

The outbreak has been witnessed in Banaskantha, Mehsana, Kutch, Patan and Sabarkantha districts in the last few days.

According to officials, swarms of locusts, which are mainly tropical grasshoppers, were destroying crops like mustard, castor, fennel, cumin, cotton, potato, wheat and jatropha.

The swarms have become the main worry for the farmers who have approached local authorities for help.

Agriculturalists say the swarms have descended from Pakistan, bordering Gujarat.

"The new-born locusts have wreaked havoc on standing crops in five districts and damaged crops on around 500,000 hectares," Abodh Patel, a farmer in Banaskantha said.

Locals said a similar invasion of locusts was witnessed in 1994.

Local media reports said authorities in Gujarat ignored an alert from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of a massive locust attack in South Asia covering Pakistan and India.

"Locust Warning Organization (LWO) in Jodhpur had noticed the swarms and predicted their trajectory across the international border. However, preventive measures by the authorities were not taken," a local media report said.

Farmers said in the absence of any help from the government they hire labourers and using age-old techniques like beating drums and vessels to scare the locusts.

"The technique is not working but we can't see our crops being easily taken away by insects," Patel said.

Agriculture officials in Gujarat while acknowledging the outbreak of locust said they have been trying to contain it.

"We are trying hard to contain this outbreak and launched a pesticide-spraying operation to kill the insects," an official at district collector's office in Banaskantha said.

Meanwhile, officials said they have sought help from the federal agriculture ministry, which would soon be rushing central teams to tackle the outbreak.

Locust, a large-sized insect is a short-horned grasshopper of migratory habit, which attacks crops or green vegetations. It causes extensive damage due to its feeding behaviour.