Parts of Northern India are facing attacks by Locust swarms damaging crops wherever they go. Locusts are known to eat all types of plants and standing crops and have entered India after sweeping through Pakistan. This could not have happened at a worst time when India is facing a financial crisis to the coronavirus. States worst hit by the swarms are Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujrat, Haryana, and Punjab. Maharashtra, New Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh too haven’t been left untouched and have incurred massive losses with the locusts sweeping through 4-5 villages.
Locust is a type of short-horned grasshopper which is usually solitary but under certain circumstances start moving in swarms. They usually aren’t much of a threat but when a special situation occurs, for example, a drought occurs and after that rapid growth of vegetation, their behavior and habits change and they start reproducing at an unprecedented rate and form swarms which eat all vegetation in their way. They start migrating together and have called plagues since ancient times. They have been the cause of quite a few famines and though modern control methods have been implemented, there are still chances for them to form. They only travel during the day and are quite big in size.
This particular Desert Locust crisis dates back to May 2018 where due to cyclone Mekunu passed over an unpopulated desert on the southern Arabian Peninsula filling sand dunes and helping the locusts breed undetected. The sudden bursts of rain also contributed to their breeding and Movement. They first swept through countries in Africa namely Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, and South Sudan by summer 2019 causing a food shortage. They then swept through Yemen and entered Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In Pakistan, the Locust kept attacking crops since June 2019 and the situation became so dire than on 1 February 2020, the Pakistani Government declared a national emergency to protect crops and help farmers.
From Pakistan, the Locusts entered India through Rajasthan sweeping villages along the way. This is the worst attack in the last 26 years. Though India isn’t a stranger to Locust attacks, this particular one is the largest Locust infestation in over 2 decades and the timing is very bad. Though the states are taking precautions such as spraying more chemical pesticides, the damage is still going to be very high. The worst part is, they’re still more swarms to come. The United Nations predicts that in a few months the Locust Infestation will shift from East Africa to India and Pakistan and will pose a severe threat to the Indian Agricultural sector this year.