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Home / Science / News /  Fresh locust swarms enter Rajasthan; situation likely to worsen

NEW DELHI: Fresh locust swarms continue to enter Rajasthan from across the border, said authorities as they prepare for the worst attack on India in recent years.

The swarms were noticed in parts of border districts of Rajasthan, around Suratgarh and Jaisalmer, where officials sprung into action to prevent the insects' further movement. The threat has been exacerbated by the breeding of new locusts in the Pakistan region.

“Presently, there is less risk to Delhi or its surrounding areas. After entering Rajasthan, they diverted towards Madhya Pradesh (MP). They have impacted large parts of Rajasthan, MP and some parts of Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. But it could invade other areas, as and when the wind direction changes," said K L Gujjar, deputy director, Locust Control Organization (LWO).

According to weather experts at IMD, wind direction changes seasonally but with regular variations depending on daily weather changes and rain-bearing systems. The wind is currently south-westerly.

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

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

“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 the insect, which has wreaked havoc in several countries in Africa and West Asia including Pakistan, devouring standing crops and vegetables. The insects pose a serious threat to farmers, especially when the country readies to sow rain-fed kharif crops.

“The 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 next crops starts," said J P Singh, joint director (entomology) at LWO.

Scientists said the growth of locusts was aided by heavy rainfall in parts of West Asia and East Africa last year, which led to more vegetation in arid areas helping desert locusts 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 kilometer. Swarms migrate with the wind and can cover 100 to 150 kilometers in a day. An average swarm can destroy as much food crops in a day as is sufficient to feed 2,500 people and pasture biomass. Green vegetation and moist sandy soils common in Rajasthan are favoured for breeding.

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