Locust swarms cloud parts of UPUpdated: Jun 28, 2020, 23:40 IST
New Delhi: Swarms of crop-eating locusts on Sunday moved further from Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr to Kasganj, Oraiyya, Farrukhabad, and Hathras after the operation to control them a day earlier when they flew over parts of the National Capital Region (NCR) were ineffective, officials said. Residents banged utensils and played loud music to chase away the pests when they arrived in NCR after surviving a control operation in Rajasthan on June 26.
K L Gurjar, the deputy director of Union agriculture ministry’s Locust Warning Organisation (LWO), said they could not control the entire swarms and they flew again early on Sunday morning. “We have arranged for drones, fire brigades, apart from seven teams with sprayer mounted on vehicles. We are trying our best. Control operations will begin again tonight [Sunday]. Teams are moving with the swarms,” said Gurjar.
India has been battling invasions of desert locusts, which pose a severe risk to farm economy, since April. Locusts can fly hundreds of kilometres daily and a square-km swarm can eat as much crop as 35,000 people in a single day.
The locusts have not so far impacted food security much but LWO has warned that the Kharif crops, especially maize and cotton, are likely to be impacted if the locust threats from the Indian Ocean and their breeding sites in India are not controlled.
LWO teams in Rajasthan were trying to control fresh swarms coming in from Pakistan and Iran. “Control operations have been strengthened at the border to ensure swarms do not come in,” said Gurjar.
Gurjar on Saturday said breeding of locusts has started in several pockets as the monsoon approaches Rajasthan’s arid regions. “The egg-laying has taken place and hoppers have emerged. But we will manage to control these hoppers immediately.”
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on Saturday warned a general northerly movement of swarms will occur even as control operations continue. Some of the swarms in Kenya were expected to transit through South Sudan to reach the summer breeding areas of Sudan, where it has rained. If the rain is not enough, the swarms could continue to Chad and spread westwards across the Sahel in West Africa. The swarms in Somalia are likely to migrate across the Indian Ocean to the summer breeding areas along the India-Pakistan border.
“In Southwest Asia, spring-bred swarms are present along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border where they are awaiting the onset of the monsoon rains that will start in the coming days and allow the swarms to mature and lay eggs,” an FAO update said. It added locusts were mainly present in Rajasthan but some infestations continue to be reported from Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
“There are successive breeding cycles in the Horn of Africa. Some swarms from there are moving towards west Africa while some are moving towards Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Yemen. These can also come to India in July. Some are expected to directly move to India from the Horn of Africa with the monsoon winds,” Gurjar said.
India Meteorological Department director-general M Mohapatra last week said winds were moving from the direction of the Horn of Africa towards India. “The wind direction is south-westerly during monsoon. I will not be able to comment on whether they will carry these swarms with them.”