The timing couldn’t be worse. A large part of northern India is facing severe locust attacks amidst already challenging times due to the coronavirus pandemic. Experts have termed this the worst attack in nearly 26 years.
Five states, namely Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, and Punjab are severely hit while Vidharba in Maharashtra, Mathura in northern UP, and New Delhi haven’t been spared. Globally, Kenya is reporting its worst locust outbreak in 70 years, while Ethiopia and Somalia are calling it the worst in 25.
What are locusts?
Let’s start at the beginning. Desert locusts are a variety of grasshoppers and can travel up to 150 km everyday eating everything on their way! They become dangerous when their population builds up rapidly and thus the proximity to human civilizations increases leading to attacks.
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Locusts only fly during the day and as per wind direction and are known for feasting on all sorts of plants and standing crops.
Locust attack on India crop
The Rabi crop has already been harvested and the Kharif is yet to be planted. The horticulture and other vegetation have seen the damage. As per reports nearly 5,00,000 hectares of crops spread over Rajasthan have been destroyed. 16 out of 52 districts in Gujarat and 17 districts in Uttar Pradesh have reported an impact too.
Watch | Locusts take over an entire neighbourhood in Jaipur
The United Nations has said that there is a severe risk to the Indian agriculture sector this year because of these attacks.
Locust attacks this year have come earlier than usual. Generally, these incidents are reported in July to October period but the low wind pressure creating cyclones and storms has hastened the phenomenon.
Agri economist Devinder Sharma says that the attack is beyond expectation and there are apprehensions that it may further destroy all shrubs, plants, and trees that fall in its path.
"This is an emergency and the damage can be quite extensive even as the state machinery is spraying pesticides and chemicals to control any swarms, the procuring of equipment, training field teams do take time," Sharma said.
What is the current situation?
Maharashtra: A swarm of desert locusts has entered the eastern part of the state. 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.
Joint director of agriculture Ravindra Bhosale told PTI, The swarm of desert locusts entered the state from Amravati district. It then went to Wardha and now it is in Nagpur's Katol tehsil."
The Mathura administration in Uttar Pradesh has formed a task force to deal with any potential locust attack in the district, an official said on Monday. The district magistrate said 200-litre Chloropyriphos has been kept as a reserve and its sellers in the area were advised not to supply the chemical outside the district.
Locusts normally affect districts in western Rajasthan but this time the swarms have travelled as far as Jaipur city. The swarms later headed towards Dausa district. The swarms are travelling farther and damaging trees as there are no standing crops for them to feed on, an official said.
In Jaipur's Murlipura and Vidhyadhar Nagar areas, people beat 'thalis' at the locusts that had settled on walls and trees, hoping to make them move on.Source: CNBC-TV18