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Destroying crops in their wake, desert locust swarms enter India; experts say vicious wave heading towards Delhi in June

In what might seem like right out of a disaster movie script, another potential threat has entered India, as the country is already reeling with ensuing damages from a virus outbreak and a super cyclone. As the authorities figure out how to deal with the full extent of continued devastation from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and Cyclone Amphan, now a vicious locust storm is fast approaching Delhi, eating up everything on the way.

According to reports, the locust storms have already invaded as far inland as Madhya Pradesh, with about 16 districts of Rajasthan affection. The district administration of Agra in Uttar Pradesh has sounded a warning as well.

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change spokesperson said on this day, “Locust swarms from Pakistan have entered Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh threatening major damage to standing cotton crops and vegetables.  Rajasthan is the most affected state.”

“During the current year, locust swarms have entered India earlier than their normal time of June and July. States are adopting various means to control the swarm of locust,” they added.

The desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria; Gryllus gregarius) is a species of locust, a swarming short-horned grasshopper in the family Acrididae. It is one of the most devastating migratory pests in the world and it is highly mobile and feeds on large quantities of any kind of green vegetation, including crops, pasture, and fodder.

Accordingly, the threat level is primarily high for the farmers, since their livelihood is directly under attack from these pests. Given India is largely an agriculture-based economy and that the farmers’ backbone in this country has been constantly dealing with crises originating due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the scare is worse this time around.

The swarm, which originated from East Africa and rapidly progressed towards India and Pakistan, is likely to be accompanied by other swarms, experts say.  This is, in some ways, a continuation of the original storm of locusts that had hit moved from the horn of Africa eastwards towards India last year. The wave had damaged crops over lakhs of hectares after the swarm hit Rajasthan in May last year and later subsequent waves kept ravaging Western India.

Now, experts say that a more vicious swarm is heading towards India and will hit the country in June, laying to ruin scores of fields of crops.