At least 10 Uttar Pradesh districts were on alert Tuesday after swarms of locusts were spotted in Mahoba and Jhansi districts, moving into the state after attacking crops in neighbouring Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, officials said.
Locusts entered Rajasthan from Pakistan earlier this month, and then drifted into other parts of western India.
Desert locusts are a regular feature in the country but on a very small scale, a Union Environment Ministry official told PTI.
"This attack is huge. It is a once in a three-decade situation and timed very badly for us as we are already dealing with coronavirus," Soumitra Dasgupta, Inspector General, Wildlife told PTI.
"Local officials have been put on alert and asked to remain prepared with chemicals in tractor-mounted sprayers, power sprayers and fire brigade," an Uttar Pradesh government spokesman said.
In Jhansi, locusts have been spotted over the last couple of days and farmers told that they should alert a control room whenever they see a swarm.
In Mahoba district, there are reports of partial damage to vegetables over 25 hectares and a detailed assessment of the loss is being done, the spokesman said.
In Rajasthan, pesticide was sprayed on locust swarms at two places in Dausa district on Monday night.
Some swarms then moved towards Karauli and other nearby areas on Tuesday, Rajasthan Agriculture commissioner Om Prakash said.
He said Jaipur and Dausa have now been cleared of locusts.
The locust activity in Rajasthan's Karauli triggered an alert in Jhansi, Lalitpur, Jalaun and Auraiya in UP as well as in districts like Hamirpur, Kannauj, Etawah and Kanpur Dehat which adjoin them.
UP's Deputy Director Agriculture Kamal Katiyar said a team from Kota in Rajasthan is helping tackle locusts.
Jhansi district magistrate Andra Vamsi said farmers have told to contact the control room as sharing information is important.
"This is an emergency, and we need to remain vigilant. This swarm has come travelling through Iran, Pakistan, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Two days ago, a large number of locusts were killed following spraying of chemicals," the DM said.
At some places in UP, farmers have been advised to beat "thalis" to drive these insects away.
In Vamsi's district, authorities were arranging sound systems in the fields where crops could be attacked.
"Farmers have been advised to play loud music to drive the insects away and save crops like moong and vegetables," the official said.
Locusts don't attack animals or humans, but can devastate crops and other areas of greenery.
Vamsi said a seven-member team from the Centre has been touring Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, dealing with the problem.
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