After Jaipur, locusts could invade Delhi; alert sounded

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The scourge of locusts has made their way into the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Sohail Madan from the Bombay Natural History Society in Delhi (BNHS) said the swarm may not only impact gardens and plants but other insects as well, which depend on the same plant profile for survival. The farmers were taken unaware as it took place after decades.

"If we are not able to control the sub-adults (the swarms that are already in MP and Rajasthan) they will grow into adults come back to the summer breeding sites along the Indo-Pak border in the desert".

Swarms of locusts were seen in various residential areas in Jaipur, the capital city of India's western state of Rajasthan on Monday.

This anticipated migration from the Horn of Africa will be joined by swarms arriving from spring breeding areas in south-west Pakistan and southern Iran from this month to July. "Their movement is being aided by north-westerly winds and they can fly above 200 km per day", Gurjar added. Hence, Union minister for agriculture Kailash Chowdhary has requested the DGCA to help the government with planes which can fight the locust menace from a height by spraying pesticides, he informed. 500,000 hectares-huge crop fields have been destroyed in Rajasthan alone, mainly in Sri Ganganagar, Bikaner and Barmer districts.

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The desert locust is one of 12 species of short-horned grasshoppers. While they usually live a solitary life, they migrate in swarms during dry spells. As their population become dense, they form swarms and start damaging the crops. Gujarat's Amreli and Bhavnagar, too, have been vigorously impacted by Locust Swarm attacks, although not as vigorously as Rajasthan.

Mr Keith Cressman, the FAO's senior locust forecaster, told The Straits Times in an e-mail last Thursday that recent rainfall is expected to produce a dramatic increase in locust numbers in East Africa over the coming months.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports in its May 21 locust update that the situation for East Africa is "extremely alarming", with Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia facing an "unprecedented threat" to food security and livelihoods as a result of locust plague.

Desert locusts invaded India via Pakistan in April and left about five states devastated.

The Covid-19 pandemic is posing fresh challenges for some 100 odd workers who are battling the insects, using vehicle-mounted sprayers, pesticides and drones in the searing desert heat. These efforts, the official said, will contribute to mitigating the effect of the desert locust not only in these countries, but also in India. The anger of the locust party is also increasing gradually among the people. How are the Indian farmers handling the situation and what is the government doing?

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