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Friday, 22 June, 2001, 06:05 GMT 07:05 UK
Russia combats locust plague
A locust eats its own weight in food a day
Locusts have a voracious appetite
The southern Russian republic of Dagestan has been hit by a plague of locusts which is devastating large areas of farmland.

Spraying must be carried out regardless - if cattle die, let them die

Dagestani leader Magomedali Magomedov
The situation is being described as a natural disaster the like of which has not been seen in 40 years, according to Russian television.

Russian TV said that in just a week the insects had destroyed over 70,000 acres (28,300 hectares) of pasture. Beet and cereal crops have been badly hit and the rice harvest is under threat.

Dagestan's deputy agriculture minister, Rapi Abakarov, told the television that nearly 200,000 acres were infested and that the figure was rising all the time as locusts continued to fly in from neighbouring regions.

Locusts recognize no borders
Locusts are flying in from neighbouring regions
The Russian authorities have put up nearly $2m to tackle the problem, according to RIA news agency.

Aircraft and tractors have been deployed to spray the fields with pesticides. A local official told Dagestanskaya Pravda newspaper that thousands of acres had already been treated.


However, there are fears that the spraying could give rise to new problems.

Mr Abakarov told Dagestanskaya Pravda that caution was needed in spraying pesticides.

"Otherwise we don't know where they will cause damage," he warned.

Pesticides a danger to cattle and people
Spraying with pesticides kills locust within 30 minutes
The paper suggested that cattle should be evacuated before spraying as the pesticides being used could kill them.

Dagestani leader Magomedali Magomedov agreed that people should be warned to move their cattle before spraying went ahead. But he told Russian independent TV that getting rid of the locusts was the top priority.

"Spraying must be carried out regardless. If cattle die, let them die. If people have been warned the owners are to blame if they fail to clear their cattle," he said.


A million locusts eat as much vegetation in a day as 10 elephants and there can be up to 80 million of them in a single square kilometre (100 hectares).

There are warnings that the situation could become much worse soon as the breeding season progresses and the insects grow wings and start to spread much more rapidly.

Cereal crops have been particularly badly hit
Crops are devastated

The plague of locusts is also wreaking havoc across large swathes elsewhere in southern Russia and in the neighbouring republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan.

An invasion is also feared imminent in the republic of Kazakhstan. State television said treating crops with pesticide was under way, but had not been completed.

In China 10 provinces from Hainan in the south to Xinjiang in the west have been hit. The Chinese authorities say they are spending millions of dollars to try to wipe out the insects before they can fly.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:

09 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Kazakhstan tackles locusts from space
27 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Why locusts swarm
11 Oct 99 | Sci/Tech
Hopes for stopping locusts
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