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Sunday, April 11, 2021

8 important facts on India’s worst locust attack in 27 years

As if the pathogen crisis wasn’t enough. India’s worst locust attack in 27 years came along, adding more panic to our lockdown days and misery to our farmer friends.

Millions of desert locusts have destroyed crops in over 100 districts in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. States further down south should brace for the danger, officials have warned.

1. What is a desert locust?

A desert locust is a type of grasshopper that look for bare grounds to lay eggs. Therefore, Rajasthan’s arid lands are ideal for these species to multiply their numbers. These locusts are known to erode everything on their path. They can massively damage a country’s agriculture and food supply chain.

These insects can fly upto 150km per day and a 1km swarm can eat the food of around 35,000 people. Now this is seriously something to worry about.

https://twitter.com/srinivasaiims/status/1264898868740669441

2. Why did these locusts arrive now?

Well, according to scientists these species grew in large numbers following unusual cyclonic storms in the Arabian sea in 2018. In those storms, large desert tracts of Oman and Yemen turned into lakes, creating an ideal breeding ground for these insects.

Experts at Locust Warning Organization, under the Centre’s agriculture ministry, got a whiff about the possible attack when they saw swarms in some parts of Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Though some measures were taken to curb the menace, sudden nationwide lockdown halted the initiative.

3. What is the current extent of the locusts’ spread?

Researchers believe that around three to four swarms are there in Rajasthan at present, while two to three in Madhya Pradesh. A small swarm moved to Maharashtra. Small batches of the locusts are also active in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. Since these locusts are not great fliers, they tend to follow wind direction.

4. What is the extent of crop damage so far?

So far, the extent of damage is not alarming. Since farmers already harvested rabi crops and didn’t sow the kharif crops yet, the damage has been minimal. However, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that more swarms can arrive during monsoon. The species’ breeding time is a danger period. A female locust can lay 60-80 eggs during its lifespan of 90 days. Now farmers and agriculture experts are hoping the locusts’ breeding isn’t coterminous with the kharif crops.

5. How can India’s worst locust attack be curbed?

Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research, Lucknow, has already issued an advisory for farmers. It has asked them to spray several chemicals from specially mounted guns to the resting places of the locusts. Drones are also being used.

6. Which states have just been alerted?

The Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka governments have been alerted. Officials have asked the state governments to spread awareness among farmers in these states about the possible locust attack.

7. Social media abuzz with locust recipes! Are you serious?

Yes, if they eat your food, you can eat them too! At least some netizens believe so! India’s social media is abuzz with various comments and ideas on the locust attack issue. While some suggest blasting DJ music to drive the swarms away, others said “when life gives you locusts, fry them”. Netizens have also shared some “quick and tasty easy locust recipes”.

8. Zaira Wasim deletes Twitter, Insta accounts over locust attack comments?

Yes, it’s sad but true. Former actor Zaira Wasim has deleted her Instagram and Twitter accounts after being criticised about her alleged communal comments about the locust attack issue. Zaira was trolled for her tweet on Thursday.

https://twitter.com/ISR_Engineer/status/1266403082662895616

Well, all we can say is that we are already living a nightmare with the coronavirus pandemic, super cyclone and now this locus attack. The 67-day lockdown has been difficult for all of us for varied reasons. Amid these hard times, can’t we be more tolerant and patient towards each other?

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