Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Agriculture Department is bracing up for a possible locus attack that may come invading from mainland India in August or September. All the field functionaries of the department have already been put on alert, and equipped with machinery, to ward off the locust swarms that may find their way into Kashmir valley.
Millions of locusts have already affected five states of India. Officials warn that the locusts can reach other parts of the country in the next few weeks.
The Agriculture Department here convened an emergency meeting a few days ago to discuss all necessary steps that have to be taken to tackle the locust attack, if and when it happens.
Such is the threat of the locusts that a committee has been constituted to gear up men and machinery (such as spraying machines) to fight the locusts in a well-prepared manner.
The field functionaries have been asked to keep constant vigil and be ready to control any emergency situation.
Even so, officials here believe that the possibility of a locust attack is less here, given the fact that Kashmir is a low-temperature zone and is protected by mountains all around.
Locusts are a species of swarming short-horned grasshopper, which devours everything that comes its way. They pose a grave threat to food crops and to the livelihoods of millions of people.
Plant Protection Officer Subhash Chander Sharma told Kashmir Reader that a team will be constituted in each district to keep abreast of any possibility or information about a locust attack. “All the men as well as machinery are in readiness. There are less chances that these locusts will make their entry here in the next two months, but it can happen after two months, in August or September,” he said.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Desert Locust Information Service bulletin, locusts can fly up to 150 km a day and a one-square-kilometre swarm can eat as much food as 35,000 people in one day.
Director Agriculture, Kashmir, Altaf Aijaz Andrabi told Kashmir Reader, “The department is prepared to face any emergency situation if it arises in next few weeks. We have directed our men to keep tight vigil on the ground and be ready for any emergency situation. The machinery and chemicals we need against this fight, are all available and ready to be used,” he said.
“An emergency meeting has been conveyed in this regard a few days back. We discussed about the possibility of locust attack here, and a committee has been constituted to look after the threat of locus attack in Kashmir valley. The committee will work in close coordination with field functionaries in different districts, who will be providing the information about the situation on the ground,” he added.
Meanwhile, farmers in Kashmir valley are keeping their fingers crossed. Ghulam Mohammed Dar, a farmer with little knowledge about locust attacks, said, “Our crop will be ready for harvest in next few months. We’re currently sowing seed saplings. We can only pray that Almighty Allah will save our crops from this attack, otherwise we’ll be devastated.”
Similarly, Fayaz Ahmad, another farmer, said in a rueful tone, “We’re facing a pandemic and here comes another calamity. Almost half the Kashmiri people are farmers. God forbid, if the locusts reach here, it will be a crushing blow to our livelihood. We usually witness heavy snow, rains and gusty winds affecting our trees and crops, and for that we hardly get any compensation, so we don’t want to face this. We pray that our crops don’t go to waste.”