Huge locust swarms hit India, East Africa amid coronavirus pandemic


Locust control teams conducted operations by spraying pesticide in Jaipur on Sunday night. This is also the reason for its fast movement as they are not getting vegetation to eat.

"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". They can travel up to 130 km a day, and each locust can consume about two grams of fresh vegetation. "The current heatwave condition and delayed monsoon onset can be a blessing in disguise to control the locust breeding", said Mohanty.

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Touted as the worst Locust attack in 27-years with severe consequences for India's agri-economy, efforts are going on to stop the Locust infestation in all the affected states in North India.

Keith Cressman, senior locust forecaster at the FAO, in his article in the Nikkai Asian Review, has an ominous warning, "As the world focuses on the insidious spread of the coronavirus, one of the most notorious migratory pests, the desert locust, has been charting its own path of destruction from the Arabian Peninsula to East Africa and as far east as Pakistan and India".

Of locusts
Cutting off locusts is not an easy

The FAO estimates losses to Pakistan agriculture from locusts this year could be as high $2.2 billion for winter crops, including wheat and potatoes, and almost $3 billion for summer crops. They reached Rajasthan on 22nd May and then travelled to Madhya Pradesh sue to shift in winds.

Meanwhile, officials of the agriculture department have blamed the neighbouring nation Pakistan alleging that it is preferring to sit idly by instead of taking any action to control the locusts as these insects have made the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan their breeding centres.

This is, in some ways, a continuation of the original storm of locusts that had hit moved from the horn of Africa eastwards towards India a year ago.

The swarms seen right now and early this year in January have been linked to the locust outbreak in east Africa, especially in the Horn of Africa region.

"We believe that a well-coordinated response is critical to deal with the challenge posed by desert locusts", she stressed. "New swarms will form in June, and migrate to the Sudan through South Sudan", said Dominique Burgeon, director, Emergency and Resilience Division Strategic Programme Leader - Resilience at FAO. Drones have been used to track the hordes, and the deployment of specialized fire tenders equipped with pesticide is being considered. Governments in these states have been readying the vehicles to spray the chemicals on crop fields to repel the Locusts. The anger of the locust party is also increasing gradually among the people.

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A second paper , also published January 24, described the first scientific evidence confirming person-to-person transmission. It reflects a clear understanding that as with Sars pandemic, China has not been completely forthcoming on Covid-19.