Alert sounded after a swarm of locusts enters Rajasthan’s Ajmer
A swarm of locusts that travelled to the Indian border from Pakistan reached Rajasthan’s Ajmer district on Monday, and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) warned that more invasions by the insects . were likely from new areas.
The Indian government’s Locust Warning Organization (LWO) claimed that the locust invasion would be controlled soon. LWO deputy director KL Gurjar said a swarm of locusts had been reported on Sunday night near Beawar, a city in Ajmer, that had since reached the district.
Meanwhile, the FAO, an arm of t he United Nations (FAO), released a status update, suggesting the conditions for invasions by locus, a migratory pest, had become more worrisome in May and June. According to the update, migration from the spring breeding areas in Baluchistan has commenced, and several immature adult groups and swarms of locusts have appeared since May 2 in Rajasthan.
Increased monitoring and reporting are required in desert areas along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border, warned the FAO, which released a global forecast according to which, in addition to the current invasion, locust swarms from new areas can cross the Indian border from June 22.
According to the FAO, locusts possess the ability to change their behaviour and habits and can migrate over large distances. They can form dense and highly mobile swarms that can then fly as long as 150 kilometres a day, given favourable winds.
These swarms can devour large amounts of vegetation and crops. An adult desert locust can consume its own weight in fresh food per day. Just one small swarm can eat the same amount of crops in a day as 35 000 people. If the numbers of locusts is not contained, the impact on crops and vegetation will drive up hunger in regions already struggling with high levels of food insecurity.
Armies of locusts swarming across continents pose a “severe risk” to India’s agriculture this year, the UN has warned, prompting the authorities to step up vigil, deploy drones to detect their movement and hold talks with Pakistan on ways to minimise the damage, Hindustan Times reported on March 1.
Locust attacks are known to cause a considerable drop in agricultural output. Authorities at the national plant protection office said the country was prepared and deploying a wide range of measures. But large-scale invasions could still prove challenging given that India lacks equipment like large sprayer aircraft, experts said.
A moderate infestation from across the border chomped through crops in an estimated 300,000 hectares in Rajasthan and Gujarat in January. An upsurge in locust attacks since last year is being attributed to favourable breeding weather caused by a large number of cyclones in East Africa. India, China and Pakistan face the most risk in Asia.
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