Friday, May 29, 2020

India faces its worst locust menace in 27 years

India faces its worst locust menace in 27 years

Large swarms of desert locusts have entered in India where they had not been seen since 1993 and have already caused huge damage to crops in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, parts of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. They have destroyed over 90,000 hectares of cropland, putting further strain on the food supply in India as authorities battle to contain the coronavirus.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) desert locusts typically attack the western part of India and some parts of the state of Gujarat from June to November. However, the Ministry of Agriculture's Locust Warning Organization (LWO) spotted them in India as early as April this year.

Real damage is being caused in rural India where farmers already bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 induced lockdown and the low prices they have fetched in the last few years, stare at massive crop damage that the locust swarms are capable of inflicting.

Heavy rains and cyclones in the Indian Ocean are being cited by experts as reasons for increased breeding of locusts this year. The attack is also spread over a wider geography in India than usual. The FAO has warned that the locust infestation will increase next month, when locusts breeding in East Africa reach India.

According to Roxy Mathew Koll, climate scientist at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, the heavy rainfall was caused by unusually warm waters in the western Indian Ocean in late 2019 “Heavy rain triggers the growth of vegetation in arid areas where desert locusts can then grow and breed. These locusts which migrated to India early this year might have found greener pastures as the pre-monsoon rains during March-May were in excess over north India this year,” he said. 

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