Swarms of crop-destroying desert locusts have entered the outskirts of Delhi after being spotted in several parts of Haryana’s Gurugram district earlier on Saturday. Locusts were seen in Rajendra Park of sector 5, Surat Nagar, Dhanwapur, Palam Vihar, Maruti factory in sector 18, Sector 17 DLF phase 1 and many other places in old and new Gurugram.
With thousands of locusts covering the sky in Gurugram, the Haryana government has issued a high alert with officials saying that all necessary measures have been taken, including deploying tractor-mounted spraying facilities, sources said.
Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai on Saturday called an emergency meeting to discuss the situation. The minister also directed the administration to be alert and asked officials of the Agriculture department to make field visits in areas close to Gurugram.
The development secretary, divisional commissioner, director, Agriculture department, and the district magistrates of South Delhi and West Delhi attended the meeting, as per reports.
“As per the information we’re getting, the swarms of locusts are headed towards Palwal (in Haryana). But a small portion has entered Jasola and Bhati (at Delhi border). An instruction as been issued to beat dhols and drums. This is a way to ward them off… the government will issue an advisory on this,” Gopal Rai said.
Desert locusts can fly hundreds of kilometres a daily and a one square-km swarm can eat as much crop food as 35,000 people in terms of weight in a single day, according to the FAO Desert Locust Information Service manual.
“As of now, no locust swarms are active in any city. Authorities are tracking their route. The locusts have reached Uttar Pradesh flying over parts of the national capital,” the official cited above said. The swarms may descend somewhere near Agra by nightfall, according to inputs received from tacking teams.
On Saturday, expert teams scoured areas which lay under the locust flight path. The country has deployed drones, locally developed sprayers and modified fire tenders to spray malathion, the main pesticide that is effective against the desert locust.
India this month shipped 20,000 litres of malathion to Iran to curb breeding there. Controlling the pests in Iran helps India because Iran lies on a west-east corridor the locusts take to enter India through Rajasthan.
The official cited above said all the formations are being tracked by teams of state agriculture departments of Rajasthan, Haryana and UP.
More control teams from Rajasthan were being moved to Haryana and UP to launch operations.
Locust authorities have ramped up containment since May. The area under control currently stands at about 114,026 hectares, up from about 49,000 hectares in May. One hectare is roughly 2.4 acres.
The most threatened states where locust control operations are under way are Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and UP.
“India has experience of fighting the pest from two previous outbreaks in 1950 and 1993. We have better technology now. If need be help can be taken of the air force for aerial spraying,” said JN Thakur, a former chief of locust monitoring at the agriculture ministry.