Big locust swarm headed towards Madhya Pradesh, bypasses Delhi
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Big locust swarm headed towards Madhya Pradesh, bypasses Delhi


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Reports had suggested the swarm would come towards Delhi on Wednesday, but LWO said the dreaded insects are likely to move from Dausa to Dholpur in Rajasthan and to Morena in Madhya Pradesh, destroying all kinds of vegetation, and not just standing crops.

A locust swarm is not expected to pass over Delhi and is likely to move towards Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) said on Wednesday.

Reports had suggested the swarm would come towards Delhi on Wednesday, but LWO said the dreaded insects are likely to move from Dausa to Dholpur in Rajasthan and to Morena in Madhya Pradesh, destroying all kinds of vegetation, and not just standing crops.

Small swarms have reached Vidarbha and other parts of Maharashtra, as well as parts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. More swarms are flying in Rajasthan.

“The alert that they are headed towards Delhi on Wednesday is incorrect. They are headed towards Morena for now,” said KL Gurjar, deputy director of the Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage and LWO.

LWO has 50 teams currently tracking locust swarms from Rajasthan to Madhya Pradesh. Drones have been launched to track the swarms, and fire fighters have been deployed, depending on the size and location of swarms.

“We have controlled them in 47,000 hectares in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. The swarms which reached Maharashtra are very small. Thankfully, we didn’t have any standing crops here in Rajasthan but they can destroy all kinds of vegetation,” said Gurjar.

LWO teams are spraying the pesticides Malathion 96 and Chlorpyrifos, depending on the location.

Gurjar said he was hopeful that all swarms would be destroyed before the insects start breeding during the monsoon. “Before the monsoon, we will control them completely so that there is no second wave,” he said.

LWO had warned in its May 15 bulletin that soil moisture was observed “dry” at Jaisalmer, Barmer, Phalodi, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Bikaner and Palanpur and wet patches were recorded at Suratgarh and Fazilka.

Vegetation was found to be green at Barmer, Jaisalmer, Suratgarh and some parts of Nagaur.

Favourable breeding condition for the desert locust is moist sandy or clay soil. Green vegetation is favourable for development of hoppers. Often favourable conditions may exist in the desert but there are no locusts present. Therefore, the presence of moist soil and green vegetation does not automatically mean that there are locusts around according to LWO.

“As per global situation, some adult groups and swarms [of locusts are] expected to arrive in India from spring breeding areas. Therefore, vigilance will continue towards expected invasion of locusts in coming days,” the warning had said.

Experts said excess rains in the pre-monsoon season over north India may have created conditions for locusts to thrive at a time earlier than normal this year. For example, northwest India received 24% excess rains from March 1 to May 27 (pre-monsoon months) and central India received 109% excess rains during this period. West and east Rajasthan recorded excess rains of 64% and 117% respectively.

Climate scientists and organisations such as the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) have said deadly locust invasions in Africa, Middle East and South Asia are linked to freak weather associated with climate change. WMO said unusually heavy rainfall in late 2019 was a factor in the severe desert locust outbreak in the Horn of Africa region – the worst in more than 25 years, and the most serious in 70 years for Kenya.

This is expected to spread further by June and pose a severe threat to food security.

“Heavy rain triggers the growth of vegetation in arid areas where desert locusts can 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,” said Roxy Mathew Koll, climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.

KK Singh, senior scientist at India Meteorological Department, said: “It’s not a direct link. We cannot say that because we had excess pre-monsoon rains and greenery in northwest and central India, so locusts have invaded us. There are many other factors.”

Desert locusts can eat as much as their own weight, which is about five to 10 grams, a day. Just one small swarm has the potential to eat the same amount of crops in one day as 35,000 people. If the locusts are not contained, the impact on crops and vegetation will drive up hunger in regions already struggling with high levels of food insecurity.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation has said the current locust upsurge is alarming in Eastern Africa. More than 25 million people will face acute food insecurity in the region in the second half of 2020. In Yemen, where locusts have been reproducing in hard-to-access inland areas, 17 million people may be impacted, it said.