Patna: Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and threat of floods following heavy rains, thousands of farmers in Bihar are now worried about a possible locust attack after swarms of locusts reportedly entered the state. Locusts were spotted in over half a dozen districts including Patna in the last 24 hours forcing the government to declare a high alert in over a dozen districts. The government has directed concerned officials to take adequate measures to deal with the locusts.
The pest was spotted in rural Patna on Sunday following which the Agriculture Department alerted officials and district administration about the possibility of locusts’ attack in Patna on Monday. Locusts are reportedly present in Bikram, Dulhin Bazar, and Masaurhi in rural Patna.
So far, the locusts have not damaged crops in the state, claimed Bihar Agriculture Minister Prem Kumar after holding a high-level emergency meeting to review the situation on Monday. But the farmers, who have been busy with paddy sowing and paddy seedling replantation in their fields, are still wary.
According to department officials, locusts were spotted at different places in Bhojpur, Arwal, West Champaran, and Patna districts on Sunday. So far, reports of having spotted the pests have come from districts including Muzaffarpur, Gopalganj, Rohtas, Siwan, and Bagha city of West Champaran.
Sunil Kumar Ajay, deputy director, plant protection, Agriculture Department, said that locusts have entered Bihar after several decades. “This is a new development for farmers as well as the department,” he said.
Ajay told NewsClick, “There is no doubt that fear of a locust attack is real now. But the department is taking no chances and has started with measures like spraying chemicals with the support of the fire brigades where locusts have been spotted.”
He added that the department has alerted all the block agriculture officials and panchayat level officials to take all possible measures.
Agricultural scientists from Bihar Agriculture University in Bhagalpur district had earlier said that there were no reported locust attacks in the state in recent years.
Farmers are now worried that the locusts are likely to damage standing maize, sugarcane, vegetables, and late varieties of mango in the state.
District Agriculture officer from Muzaffarpur, K K Verma, said that the department is alert and in action. “Different teams are moving from one place to another in search of locusts and are fully equipped to spray chemicals. Locusts in large numbers were spotted at a few places on Monday,” he said.
He told NewsClick that villagers have also been creating loud noises by beating drums, utensils, and tin sheets so as to scare and disperse the locusts.
Early this month, the department had conducted mock drills in 24 panchayats in different districts and had launched an awareness campaign to be fully prepared to tackle the likely locust attacks. Farmers were given tips about making loud noises to drive the locusts away.
Meanwhile, the water level is rising in Mahananda, Bagmati, and Kamla rivers in North Bihar after heavy rainfall in the last two days. As per reports of the department, Mahananda is flowing above the danger mark at a few places and water is spreading over large areas in Katihar district. With the IMD’s alert for heavy rain in the next 36 hours in Bihar, people in the low-lying areas in flood-prone districts may have to move to safer places in the coming days.