As the world is tackling against the worst pandemic in the form of COVID-19, the locust attack seems to be another dangerous blow from mother nature. Swarming locust is creating havoc in the northern region of India. The states of Gujrat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana are at high stake. The situation is far more worst than one can imagine, farmers are losing their precious crops, this creates an unprecedented crisis in 25 years.
Origin of Locust and It’s Characteristics
Locusts, or Desert Locusts, are insects that belong to the family of grasshoppers. Their appearance resembles that of short-horned grasshoppers, and they are scientifically referred to as ‘Schistocerca Gregaria‘. Green plants happen to be their primary source of energy. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), their average life span is about three to five months, and it can vary depending on the weather and ecological conditions. The origin of the locust has been traced from middle east countries, from their birthplace, these creatures have continuously travelled thousands of miles to reach India.
The first wave of swarms was sighted along the India-Pakistan border on April 11, which was a lot earlier than its actual migration time, which arrives during the monsoon months. Locusts, known as the oldest migratory pests in the world, travel across different countries and even continents with the help of high wind speeds. At their fastest, they can cover a distance of up to 150 km per day.
Impact on Peasants and Farmlands
Though, locust does not possess any direct harm to people however, the diet of the swarm colony is the biggest challenge. An adult locust can consume food quantity equal to its own weight, which is roughly about 2 grams, every single day. It is estimated that a single square kilometre of the swarm can contain somewhere between 40-80 million adult locusts. Being an hardcore herbivorous, their eating habits can give nightmare.
According to the report from Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the insects have engulfed more than 50,000 hectares (123,5000 acres) of agricultural land in seven of India’s heartland states. A swarm of 40 million locusts can eat as much food as 35,000 humans. The sudden outbreak has prompted them to use vehicle-mounted sprayers, pesticides and drones to stop the infestation. The local authorities are doing their best to tacking the situation but unfortunately the lock-down and struggling economy making things worst. If left unchecked, this will lead to lower production than usual and a rise in prices of foodstuff.
The heavy rain and cyclone in Indian Ocean are being cited as the reason for such mass scale breeding of locust this year. Experts says, agrarian crisis and subsequent food inflation will severely impede India’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of migrant workers have died from hunger after India suddenly imposed a nationwide lock-down to contain the spread of the coronavirus, leaving workers penniless. An agrarian crisis because of a locust swarm will further hamper relief efforts of the government.
Measure taken by Local Authorities
The local bodies are spraying chemical to control the locust population count. In addition, the ministry of agriculture has deployed fire brigades for pesticide spray, tractor-mounted sprayers, survey vehicles, and several spray equipment to tackle the locust attacks. Water canons are being used at several villages to disrupt the crowd. It’s very likely the government will take certain measure to deal with the issue in near future.