India might soon have to face a new worrying challenge other than the novel Coronavirus pandemic. According to media reports, a giant locust storm is expected to arrive from East Africa and attack farmlands in South Asia in the coming months.
Earlier in February this year, Punjab and Haryana had reported locust infestation in its farm, following which the States were put on high alerts. The government deployed special teams to tackle the situation and to spread awareness about locust preventive measures among farmers.
In January and February, locust swarms had ravaged crops in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and South Sudan. And now, the second wave of the crop-devouring pests is expected to make a devastating appearance while COVID-19 hits public health and brings the global economy to a grinding halt. Now, after those swarms laid eggs, there were likely to be 20 times as many they said.
In India, locusts hit Rajasthan in February this year. Later, the authorities in the State undertook a massive exercise to contain the outbreak. Local media reported that the government was preparing for a “two-front war”— one, which was ongoing against the COVID-19 infections and another to ensure food security — in anticipation of the locust attack on farms. A few locust swarms were also reported in Anoopgarh and Sri Ganganagar districts of Rajasthan after their attack emanated from the desert area of Pakistan.
Despite Coronavirus-related travel restrictions, international experts are in place to support efforts to eradicate the pest with measures including ground and aerial spraying of pesticides. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has managed to raise nearly $120m to tackle the problem, which will augment the efforts of governments in affected countries.
Locusts have a behavioural phase called the gregarious phase when the pests congregate into thick, mobile, ravenous swarms when environmental conditions produce many green plants and promote breeding. Found in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, locusts inhabit some 60 countries and can cover one-fifth of Earth's land surface. Each locust can eat its weight in plants each day, so a swarm of such size would eat 423 million pounds of plants every day.
(With inputs from agencies) (AP Photo)