Home >News >India >Fresh swarms of locusts reach Rajasthan; situation likely to worsen

NEW DELHI : Fresh swarms of desert locusts continued to enter Rajasthan from across the border, as the worst locust attack on India in recent years raised concerns over its impact on crops. The swarms were first noticed in parts of the border districts of Suratgarh and Jaisalmer, and officials sprang into action to prevent their spread. But, the threat has been exacerbated by the breeding of more locusts in Pakistan.

“At present, there is less risk to Delhi or its surrounding areas. After entering Rajasthan, they diverted towards Madhya Pradesh. They have impacted large parts of the two states and some parts of Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, and could invade other areas, as and when the wind changes direction," said K.L. Gurjar, deputy director, Locust Warning Organisation (LWO).

According to weather experts at India Meteorological Department, the wind direction tends to change seasonally, but there are regular variations depending on the daily weather changes and rain-bearing systems. It is currently south-westerly.

“New swarms are continuing to come from across the border. This time, they are much greater in number. They are moving to quieter areas, since they stay away from sources of high decibel sounds," said an official based in Suratgarh.

Experts fear that the locust swarms could swell by June, if more action is not taken urgently to control their infestation and mitigate damage.

“The problem is clearly going to continue for the next four months at least, and the government is capable of handling it. There may not be a food security crisis, but there is likelihood of livelihood crisis on those farms which would be invaded by locusts. So, the government should not only use its resources to stop this menace from spreading, but also make provisions to compensate farmers whose farms are damaged by these pests," said Ajayvir Jakhar, chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj, a farmers’ advocacy group.

The desert locust is the most dangerous of the nearly one dozen species of locusts, which have wreaked havoc in several countries in Africa and West Asia as well as in Pakistan, devouring standing crops and vegetables. The insects pose a serious threat to farmers, especially when India is gearing up for the sowing of kharif crops.

“The (locust) population is huge, in millions. But our teams are already on ground using pesticides to destroy them. Our target is to control them before the sowing of the next crops starts," said J P Singh, joint director (entomology), LWO.

Scientists said the growth of locusts was aided by heavy rainfall in parts of West Asia and East Africa last year, which triggered the growth of vegetation in arid areas, helping desert locusts to develop and reproduce. The October-December season was recorded to be one of the wettest in East Africa last year.

A typical desert locust swarm can contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometre. Swarms migrate with the wind and can cover 100 to 150 km in a day. An average swarm can destroy food crops sufficient to feed 2,500 people in a day.

Green vegetation and moist sandy soil common in Rajasthan are favoured for locust breeding.

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