YB WEB DESK. Dated: 12/28/2019 11:40:53 AM

T K NANDANAN Now a different kind of intruders coming from across the Indo-Pak borders targeting lakhs of hectares of agricultural crops in Gujarat and Rajastahn is giving sleepless nights to a lot of farmers in Gujarat and Rajasthan. A plague of locusts is a devastating natural disaster. These infestations have been feared and revered throughout history. Unfortunately, they still wreak havoc today. Yes, swarm of locusts- the plague of Pakistan has descended on agricultural fields in Gujarat and Rajasthan sending shockwaves through the farmers. These locusts entered Gujarat from the desert areas of Pakistan and inflicted major damage on crops of mustard, castor, fennel, cumin, cotton, potato, wheat and jatropha. This is the second time in a month that locusts have invaded the fields in north Gujarat and Rajasthan. Locust, a kind of insect attacks crops such as millet, maize, wheat, barley, rice, sugar cane, cotton, corn, oats, peanuts and green vegetations. It causes extensive damage due to its feeding behavior. It is mentioned in the Bible as one of the plagues that Moses brings on Egypt. The Gujarat government on Thursday promised compensation for farmers in Banaskantha district and other areas of north Gujarat which has been facing the massive locust attack over the last two weeks. Worried over huge loss of crops, 27 teams have been formed to tackle the problem of locusts entering various districts of the state and damaging the crops. 27 teams will take all necessary steps including spraying of pesticides to contain the attack. According to Gujarat government, swarms of locusts have damaged the standing crops over 8,000 -10,000 hectares. A few days ago, a huge swarm spread across 30 to 35 square kilometers descended in Tharad tehsil and devoured mustard, castor, funnel and wheat crops. These locusts are believed to be still present in the neighboring areas of Jalore district in Rajastahan and in the Tharparkar desert of Pakistan. It is learnt that one swarm covering one square kilometers contains 50 million locusts, and this swarm can eat the equivalent of 100 tons per day. These insects have been a threat to food security since biblical time. They are rapacious eaters and are difficult and expensive to control. Locust swarms are typically in motion and can cover vast distances. In 1954, a swarm flew from northwest Africa to Great Britain. In 1988, another made the lengthy trek from West Africa to the Caribbean. Interestingly, eating locusts is, in fact, a common survival strategy in places ravaged by them, simply because there is little else left. The Hebrew Scriptures specify that, unlike other insects the locust is kosher to eat. There is a reference in the Bible about eating the locust by John the Baptist. In combating the locust threat, both India and Pakistan have to consistently share inputs including satellite data to counter and restrict the movement of locusts. If more details are required to eliminate swarms of locust, India must consult other countries on how effectively can the swarms of locust be eliminated. The government can also consider collecting the swarms of locust for processing them for eating. Allowing local farmers to catch locusts with a view to procure them by the government and sell them to other countries may also be considered as people in many countries are eating them especially in the East Asian countries and the Gulf countries.


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