Huge swarms of desert locusts have destroyed crops across western and central India, prompting authorities Tuesday to ramp up their response to the country’s worst epidemic in nearly three decades.
Drones, tractors, and cars were sent to track the voracious pests and spray them with pesticides. The locusts have already destroyed nearly 50,000 hectares (125,000 acres) of farmland.
“Eight to 10 swarms, each with an area of about one square kilometer, are active in parts of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh,” deputy director of the government’s Locust Warning Organization KL Gurjar told AFP.
Insects have caused massive damage to seasonal crops in both states, decimating many farmers already suffering from the impact of the coronavirus lockdown.
They destroyed crops in the agricultural heartlands of neighboring Pakistan in April, before entering Rajasthan.
Gurjar said smaller swarms are also active in a few states across India.
A swarm of 40 million locusts can eat up to 35,000 people – or six elephants – according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Residential areas in the state capital Jaipur were inundated with insects as stunned locals pounded pots and pans in an effort to ward off the insects.
Experts warn that the situation could deteriorate, with more expected to reach India via Pakistan from the Horn of Africa in June.
Heavy rains and cyclones led to an unprecedented breeding and rapid growth of locust numbers in the Arabian Peninsula early last year, according to the United Nations.
The alert center said India has not seen locust swarms of this size since 1993 when it suffered from a widespread plague.
Locusts destroy crops in some parts of Rajasthan near the border with Pakistan in most years, but it is rare for the insects to move to other areas of the state.
Wind patterns are pushing locust swarms to the southwest, the Locust Warning Center said.
Pakistan struggles to combat devastating locust plague
© 2020 AFP
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