Karnataka govt prepares for locust attack as crop-eaters march to Maharashtra

Last Updated 28 May 2020, 06:41 IST

Fearing the invasion of a massive locust swarm that has reached parts of Maharashtra, authorities are desperately hoping for a change in wind direction — currently flowing in North-South direction — to prevent the flying insects from approaching the northern parts of Karnataka.

The current wind flow pattern has offered a chance for the swarm — locusts use wind currents to move — to land in the northern districts of the state.

On Wednesday, Development Commissioner Vandita Sharma held a meeting with officials from Agriculture, Revenue and other departments to discuss the standard operating procedure to handle the worst-case scenario.

Locusts are known to destroy standing crops, affecting the livelihoods of people in the agricultural supply chain.

Agriculture director B Y Srinivas told DH there was a 50:50 chance that the locusts will reach Karnataka.

“The meeting discussed measures to tackle the swarm of insects as there are reports that they have reached Nagpur and surrounding areas in Maharashtra,” he said.

Another meeting with Agriculture Minister B C Patil is scheduled on Thursday.

According to sources, officials deliberated on the use of insecticides against the swarm with the help of Fire & Emergency Services. The availability, supply of insecticides and the number of fire trucks in the regions most prone to swarming were discussed.

Insecticides may be of little help, according to retired entomology professor N E Thyagaraj. “Using blow torches to burn the insects seems to be the only way to control.”

There are oral reports of locusts swarm entering Karnataka way back in 1962, but there is no documentary evidence, said Thippaiah M, who heads entomology at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru. “Though the chances of locusts entering the state are slim, it will be based purely on the direction of the wind flow,” he said, adding Bidar and other dry northern districts will be most prone to swarm if they enter Karnataka.

When contacted, Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre director G S Srinivasa Reddy said, “The wind flow is currently in the north-south direction and is expected to last for the next two-days. Wind will flow towards Gujarat due to the development of a low pressure region in Arabian sea.”

Former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy asked the government to take precautions. “The government should immediately contact Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh to find out what steps they took and avert this,” he said, adding that four crore locusts can swarm a one-sqkm area.

(Published 27 May 2020, 18:14 IST)

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