Swarms of locusts ravage north India

JAIPUR, BHOPAL, LUCKNOW, MAY 25 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 5/25/2020 1:28:55 PM IST

Three of India’s northern states, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, have been overrun by an army of locusts in the last few days that, by some accounts, have spanned a 2.5 to 3km track. Swarms were previously reported in multiple districts in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and had reached Uttar Pradesh by the weekend. 

There have also been earlier reports from April where locust swarms had made their way into Rajasthan from Pakistan. 

Swarms of locusts entered some residential areas of the city on Monday, presenting the local people with an unusual sight. 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.

The scourge of locusts has been haunting farmers in parts of northern India for some days. The crop-destroying insects from the grasshopper family, entered Madhya Pradesh earlier this week, in the most vicious attack in nearly three decades. 

They have the potential to put in jeopardy India’s food security, experts say. In Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, the administration has kept firemen ready to hose them down with chemicals. 

The Uttar Pradesh government has declared a state-wide alert after a massive army of locusts invaded farms in several districts, The Times of India reported on Monday. Uttar Pradesh is the third state after Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to have been affected by these crop-eating pests.

Authorities fear that the pests have affected crops in 17 districts of the state including Agra, Aligarh, Bulandshahr, Etah, Kanpur and Mathura. “The swarm of locusts, which is moving, is small in size,” said Deputy Director Agriculture Kamal Katiyar. 

The desert locust, widely regarded as the most destructive migratory pest in the world, is the scourge of the farmer. Some estimate that a swarm that covers just a single square kilometer could include upwards of 80 million locusts, with the higher end of the range reaching as much as 150 million. 

In small numbers, locusts pose little threat, but when allowed to reproduce, they do so exponentially, leading to swarms of biblical proportions, capable of laying waste to large tracts of crops within hours. In fact, a swarm of locusts spanning one square kilometer is, reportedly, able to consume as much food in a single day as 35,000 humans. Previous invasions across East Africa have already raised grave concerns about food shortages, as armies of these pests not only lay waste to crops in the field, but those in storage too.


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