Swarms of the desert locust, which invaded India via Pakistan in April, have made their way to at least five states, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
Desert locusts move in large groups, called swarms, and can eat crops up to their own weight every day. When millions of locusts descend on a crop, they destroy everything.
The desert locust is considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world and a single swarm covering one square kilometre can contain up to 80 million locusts. As per eyewitnesses, the swarm which entered India from Pakistan, was about two to three kilometres long.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has issued a warning that fresh hopper groups will move across the India-Pakistan border in June. The current locust invasion is the worst in India since 1993.
India has not witnessed any full-blown locust cycles after 1962 though experts say, large-scale upsurges were observed during 1978 and 1993.
The locust forecasting officer at United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said that the current locust outbreak is the biggest in 25 years in Ethiopia and Somalia, 27 years in India, 70 years in Kenya.
Scientists say that the locust attack was likely caused due to additional cyclones in the African region. The locusts currently attacking crops in India bred and matured in Iran and Balochistan in Pakistan. The swarms of locusts breeding in Horn of Africa are likely to reach India by next month.
As per the FAO, the locust infestation is likely to get severe by next month. The desert locust invasion is expected to move from East Africa to India and Pakistan next month and could be accompanied by other swarms.
Global experts fear that the locusts, combined with the impacts of COVID-19, could have catastrophic consequences on livelihoods and food security in affected regions.
The desert locust attack has wiped out crops spread over 5,00,000 hectares in Rajasthan. The state has been battling with the locust menace for over three months now. In Rajasthan, locust attack has reached residential colonies of Jaipur. Unable to find crops to feed on, the locusts have started destroying trees.
Gujarat has also been reeling under the locust problem for over five months now. The insects have wreaked havoc in several villages in Lodiya, Savarkundla, Khambha Jaffarabad and Botad of Amreli district in Gujarat. Before this, locusts caused havoc in Surendranagar and Bhavnagar districts of Gujarat.
Locust swarms have travelled from Iran to Pakistan to India’s Rajasthan and now have successfully crossed the state to enter Madhya Pradesh. The state has a massive locust problem at its hands as 16 out of 52 districts have reported insect attacks on their crops. Farmers in Madhya Pradesh are worried that the insects will wipe out their moong beans crops, which are cultivated during summer.
Despite being further east, Uttar Pradesh has not been able to escape the locust attack. The state has reported sightings of swarms of locust in Jhansi, Agra and Delhi’s neighbouring Guatam Budhh Nagar. As per the state government, the locusts are likely to affect crops in 17 districts of the state. Jhansi’s Babina region, which borders with MP, has been under a severe locust attack.
A swarm of desert locusts has also entered the eastern part of Maharashtra where district and agriculture department personnel have initiated chemical spraying on crops and vegetation to save them from the migratory pests. Primary reports indicated that in the last couple of days, four to five villages in the Vidarbha region have come under attack from the locusts.
Punjab has been reeling under a locust attack for several months now. A few months ago, locusts attacked fields in Roopnagar and Bareka villages in Fazilka district, bordering Pakistan.