The Odisha government has deployed 91 high-capacity fire tenders in nine districts to prevent the invasion of desert locusts that have reached neighbouring Chhattisgarh after devouring acres of crops in Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
The high-risk districts where the fire tenders will be deployed are Nabarangpur, Nuapada, Kalahandi, Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada, Jharsuguda, Sundargarh and Bargarh. “The fire tenders will be used to spray chemicals on large trees and fields to control the movement of these flying pests,” inspector-general of police (fire services) Asheet Kumar Panigrahi said on Wednesday.
Officials said the fire trucks could spray chemicals to a height of over 40 feet and effectively obstruct the flight path of the locusts and kill them. Chief fire officer Sukanta Sethi said: “During my 36 years of services, I have never seen locusts invading Odisha. Their movement depends on favourable wind. All fire stations have been put on high alert and mock drills have started to tackle the menace,” chief fire officer Sukanta Sethi said. A swarm of locust is currently located in a forest area on the Madhya Pradesh- Chhattisgarh border, around 500km from Odisha.
“We are keeping a track on their movement,” agriculture director M. Muthukumar said.
A standard operating procedure has been prepared and district-level committees are being formed under the chairmanship of the collector.
“We have decided to send WhatsApp messages to around 6.5 lakh farmers and voice messages to another 8 lakh to spread awareness about ways to keep the locusts at bay,” a government official said.