In the wake of COVID-19, the nation was already suffering a huge loss in every possible manner. The limelight was on the hard-hit economy. The fortune contains more in its book, and the new pandemic arrived with locusts.
What are Locusts?
Locusts are insects that travel in large swarms with a speed up to 150kms per day which depends on the wind speed as well. The locust swarm attack leads to starvation and famine by causing huge agricultural damage. They feed on crops and devastate them. They quickly eat up the seeds, fruits, leaves, barks, flowers, and growing points of the plant. As they land on the plants or crops in massive numbers, the plant gets destroyed by their sheer weight. A small swarm of locusts has an appetite which equals to the appetite of thirty-five hundred people, twenty camels, and six elephants.
Locusts in India
The year 2020 has brought a lot of suffering along with it. The nation was somehow adapting the new way of minimalistic living in the era of coronavirus but now it also has to deal with the huge locusts’ swarm attack. The nation is surprised by this sudden arrival of the swarms as they have returned after almost 3 decades.
As of the earlier attacks, locusts could damage a huge proportion of crops according to the Union Agriculture Ministry data. During the plague cycle of 1926-1931, the damage caused was worth rupees 10 Crores, and estimated damage of rupees 2 Crores during 1940-1496 and 1949-1955 per cycle. During the last locust plague cycle of 1959-1962, there was a damage of worth rupees 50 lakhs.
This year, the nation is serving a favorable condition for the locusts and has facilitated them to travel Rajasthan to several states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and even in Delhi. These states reported crop damage where the farmers were trying to scare them by making loud noises. The farmers have also tried to smoke them out and spray chemicals to get rid of them.
India possesses a specialized Locust Warning Organization and it’s headquarter is located in Jodhpur. It is responsible for the timely regulating and planning for locust elimination and providing help to state governments in controlling invasion.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization due to the strong winds after cyclone Amphan in May, this year caused the current locust crisis.
Locusts invaded India from Pakistan, beginning from the border adjoining districts of Rajasthan. To deal with this an emergency plan has been made by the Rajasthan Government. The plan includes an effective control measure of spraying insecticides from drones in remote access areas.
Previous month Mr. Lalchand Kataria has reviewed locust control, Prime Minister’s Crop Insurance Scheme, and Kharif procurement process with other officials. Rajasthan was hit by locusts in this previous year as well but according to the warning of the Food and Agricultural Organization, this year’s large scale locust outbreak will have a 2 to 3 times larger impact than the previous year. During the coronavirus pandemic, the locust outbreak has created a very challenging situation in the country.
Naresh Pal Gangawar, the Principal Government Secretary said that last year 12 districts of the state were affected by locusts but this time a contingency plan has been prepared. In the areas where vehicles will face difficulty to reach, drones will be used to spray insecticides.
Locusts arrived in the state through Prayagraj’s Jhansi district and the administration started preparing for the same from the very initial stage. A member of the team fighting against the locust attack, Mr. Ajay Kumar Sharma said that “The swarm of the locust is expected to spoil the crops and trees of the region to a great extent. In the wake of possible locust attack in the city, we have tested the machines and now we are prepared to deal with it.”
On the 11th of June, the locust swarm entered the Prayagraj district and devastated the crops on the farm and later entered the city and fed on the places having good greenery. On the 13th of June, Uttar Pradesh’s Banda district could eliminate 70% of the pest population with the help of the Agriculture and Fire Department.
District Agricultural Officer, Dr. Pramod Kumar said that “We were able to trace the locusts in Banda with the help of the teams of the agriculture and fire department. We have eliminated 60 to 70% of the locust population. Hamripur and Mahoba districts need to be alert.”
Recently the areas of the Vidharba Region including Morshi, Chikhaldara, Katol, Warud, and Ramtek have been invaded by the desert locusts.
Dadasaheb Bhuse, the State Agriculture Minister previous month that the agriculture department could kill 50% locusts in the state. Meanwhile, locals were beating drums, and disinfected was sprayed by the Bhandara’s local administration to drive away and fight against locust swarm respectively.
Another potential attack by the locust swarms was estimated at the beginning of this month in the state as they were seen descending in the Pench Tiger Reserve. With 25 drones and a plan to buy 60 more vehicles mounted with insecticide spraying machines, the centre’s Locust Warning Organization will encounter the attack of locust swarms.
It was estimated at the beginning of this month that locusts will invade in the state of Gujarat. The Locust Control office of the Union warned the state regarding the estimated upcoming situation and hence high scale preparation has begun like awaring the farmers about how to handle the situation, stocking pesticides and insecticides, getting water pumps and tractor mounted sprayers ready and most importantly ensuring the availability of water by the state Agriculture Department.
Delhi witnessed swarm invasion over its metro stations, playground and sugarcane fields threatening the agricultural sector which is already going through a huge depression in the wake of COVID-19 and its restrictions. This Saturday morning, huge locust swarms reached Gurgaon and covered the sky. The adjoining districts of Delhi have been issued high alerts. The swarm had spread over 2 kilometers. It has yet not entered the capital.
This is not just it; many states are also suffering from this depressive cloud of locust swarms.
The nation was already dealing with an economic crisis that arrived due to coronavirus. Every economic sector was going through a hard time. The only sector which was still having the light of hope was the agricultural sector. In a country like India where the majority of the employment is controlled by the agricultural sector is now having a shaken ground.
The sector was already suffering due to the increased restrictions in the wake of coronavirus. The desert locust feeds on vegetation and is the most destructive among the rest of the locust species because of their speed and their ability of fast reproduction.
The earlier mentioned data of Union Agriculture Ministry specifies that how major damage locusts have created earlier and now when the country is already dealing with coronavirus, cyclones, and floods, locust attacks will leave a deep wound in the economy.
The methods that the concerned departments are opting for or are willing to opt cannot replace the traditional method of dealing with pests which are cheaper but rapid effectiveness is much needed at this time. Hence options like drones and tractor-mounted sprayers are the only effective option left. The nation is taking rapid steps because it is cannot afford to add more burden to the ongoing economic crisis due to coronavirus.
The state governments are working on compensation plans to offer the suffered farmers.