Amid COVID-19 Threat, India Grapples With Locust Attack

  • 27 May 2020

As India, like the rest of the world, grapples with impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also come under attack from another front. 

Huge swarms of desert locusts, known as the most dangerous of the migratory pests in the world, are ravaging thousands of acres of crops and vegetations across western and central India, causing major agricultural damage. 

If the situation goes unchecked, it can result in famine and starvation. It can also lead into deeper economic troubles in a country already devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to reports, the attack, which is especially prevalent in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, is the worst of its kind since 1993. 

However, while the 1993 attack was mainly confined to Rajasthan, favourable weather conditions have pushed the locust swarms until Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and even Maharashtra. 

Locusts are voracious eaters, with a 40-million strong swarm able to eat as much as food as 35,000 people, or six elephants. They can travel up to 150 kilometres in a day, depending on the wind speed. 

In India, locusts are normally sighted during July- October along the Pakistan border, but this year, small groups were reported as early as April 11.

Authorities have deployed drones, tractors, and cars to track down the swarms and spray them with pesticides, while local villagers smoked the insects out, banged on pots and pans, and set off firecrackers to scare off the swarms. 

To compound the matter, the United Nation's food and agriculture organisation (FAO) has warned that the locust invasion in India can worsen in the coming months, as more are swarms more expected to reach India via Pakistan from the Horn of Africa in June.

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