While nature has been taking the global lockdown to heal itself, it is also showing how earthlings are completely at its mercy. The latest in natural crisis, locusts have been wreaking havoc for the Indian agriculture and farming community. Huge swarms of desert locusts are destroying crops across western and central India, prompting authorities to step up their response to the country's worst plague in nearly three decades.
Drones, tractors and cars have been sent out to track the voracious pests and spray them with pesticides. The locusts have already destroyed nearly 50,000 hectares (125,000 acres) of cropland. "Eight to 10 swarms, each measuring around a square kilometre are active in parts of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh," said KL Gurjar, Deputy Director of the government's Locust Warning Organisation. If the authorities are unable to control the spread of the swarm by June it will negatively impact the monsoon crops of rice, cane, corn, cotton, and soybean.
Locusts entered India after traveling from Africa through Yemen, Iran and Pakistan. They destroyed harvests in the agricultural heartlands of neighbouring Pakistan in April, before entering Rajasthan. According to a report by Zee News, the locust attacks has destroyed 5 lakh hectares of crop in Rajasthan and impacted 17 districts in Madhya Pradesh. Smaller swarms are also active in a handful of states across India, Gurjar added.
The locusts swarms have now made their way to Uttar Pradesh and Amravati, Wardha and Nagpur in Maharashtra. The fruit orchards in the region are under the threat of destruction due to the influx of the pests. Telengana is next on the path of the locust plague and districts of Nizamabad, Kamareddy, Asifabad, Mancherial Jaishankar Bhoopalpalli, Adilabad, and Kumarambheem Asifabad have been alerted to take precautions against the swarm. Four types of locust viz., Desert locust, Migratory locust, Bombay Locust, and the Tree locust are reported in India.
Locusts belong to the grasshopper family and generally harmless. But with heavy rains and cyclones, they have undergone unprecedented breeding and the rapid growth of locust populations on the Arabian peninsula early last year, according to the United Nations. A swarm of 40 million locusts can eat as much food as 35,000 people, or six elephants, according to UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation.
India has not seen locust swarms on this scale since 1993 when it experienced a widespread plague, the warning centre said. Locusts destroy crops in some parts of Rajasthan close to the border with Pakistan most years, but it is rare for the insects to move further into the state.
With inputs from Relax News
Images: Courtesy Vishal Bhatnagar; Banaras Khan / AFP