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India - 4 Rajasthan districts hit by biggest locust attack

In the biggest locust attack ever, crops over at least 1,50,000 hectare land have been damaged across four districts in Rajasthan, a special crop assessment report has found.

The locust outbreak was reported in May 2019 after 26 years, and grasshoppers returned in December-January period to cause extensive damage, the officials of the Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) said.

Officials have warned that if locust control was not carried out in the desert areas of Pakistan, a new attack was possible in the Indian Thar Desert next week.

On Saturday evening, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot directed the state’s disaster management and relief department to start payment of compensation to affected farmers in two days. Earlier Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani announced compensation to farmers in the border areas of the state.

As per the State Disaster Relief Force norms, a farmer would get Rs 13,500 per hectare for crop damage and for a maximum of two hectares.

State revenue minister Harish Choudhary said the biggest damage has been reported from Jalore and Jaisalmer districts, where 60,000 and 55,000 hectare areas were affected respectively. About 35,000 hectare area in Barmer and 10,000 hectares in Jodhpur were also affected, he said.

Crop losses have also been reported from Jodhpur, but its assessment is yet to be completed.

In all, the crop damage is estimated to be worth more than Rs 150 crore. Of this, the Jaisalmer district collector has estimated the crop loss at Rs 40 crore.

The LWO, headquartered in Jodhpur and under the Union ministry of agriculture and farmer welfare, said the current locust invasion is the largest and the longest-running. “The locusts were first spotted in Jaisalmer district in May last year and until now the swarms from Pakistan have damaged crops in a hundred thousand hectare,” said LWO deputy director K L Gurjar.

LWO officials said that the desert locust has always been a major threat. The magnitude of the damage and loss caused by the locusts is huge.

The locusts currently being controlled are the third generation of summer breeding.

“It was believed that the locusts would shift towards the breeding ground on the Iran-Baluchistan border, but there was some delay. Due to this, the locust outbreak continued till the second week of January,” Gurjar said. “We have controlled locust outbreaks in Jodhpur, Bikaner and Jaisalmer districts. Conditions in Sriganganagar, Barmer and parts of Pali district will come under control in few days.”

Gehlot reviewed the measures taken to control locusts in various districts of western Rajasthan on December 24.

He wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 27 and urged him to have the central government coordinate with neighbouring countries, including Pakistan, for control of locusts. Gehlot suggested that the neighbouring countries should take effective measures to control locust breeding and growth.

Source – https://www.hindustantimes.com