Tack­ling the lo­cust at­tack

It can threaten food se­cu­rity and liveli­hoods. Treat it se­ri­ously

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - COMMENT -

While In­dia bat­tles the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, four states — Mad­hya Pradesh, Ra­jasthan, Pun­jab and Gu­jarat — are also con­fronting an­other chal­lenge — a desert lo­cust at­tack. Six­teen out of 33 dis­tricts of Ra­jasthan are bat­tling the scourge; Mad­hya Pradesh our­take has re­ported one of the worst at­tacks in 27 years in the Ni­mar-Malwa region; and, Pun­jab and Gu­jarat have warned farm­ers that they could be the next. Re­ports say that swarms are threat­en­ing to touch the Ra­jasthan-Haryana bor­der, and then could move into Delhi. The cur­rent round is the sec­ond such at­tack; the first one was from De­cem­ber to Fe­bru­ary. In­dia was then mod­er­ately suc­cess­ful in tack­ling the prob­lem, with states de­ploy­ing teams to spray organophos­phate to kill lo­custs.

The desert lo­cust is one of 12 species of short-horned grasshop­pers; its swarms can travel up to 130 km in one day. Each day, a lo­cust can eat its own weight — about two grams of fresh veg­e­ta­tion. This means that they not only de­vour valu­able stand­ing crops, but can also dev­as­tate liveli­hoods of those as­so­ci­ated with the agri­cul­tural sup­ply chain. The Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion has warned that the lo­cust at­tack could lead to a ma­jor threat to food se­cu­rity. Lo­cust at­tacks are not new to In­dia, but ear­lier they used to leave In­dia by Novem­ber. But the swarms stayed on till early Fe­bru­ary this year. This, sci­en­tists said, was be­cause of the cli­mate cri­sis. In 2019, the mon­soon started six weeks ahead of time (first week of July) in western In­dia. It also lasted till Novem­ber, in­stead of the usual Septem­ber/Oc­to­ber cy­cle. Ex­tended rains cre­ated breed­ing con­di­tions and also pro­duced nat­u­ral veg­e­ta­tion on which lo­custs feed. The May at­tack has been at­trib­uted to a se­ries of cy­clones in the In­dian Ocean that hit a sandy area in the Ara­bian penin­sula, pro­vid­ing hos­pitable breed­ing con­di­tions for lo­custs.

Cur­rent global chal­lenges — the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, in­creas­ing in­ten­sity of cy­clones (as Am­phan has shown), the lo­cust at­tacks in Africa, Iran, Pakistan and In­dia — demon­strate the per­ils of en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion and the need for in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion to fight trans-bor­der chal­lenges. In­dia has pro­posed a tri­lat­eral re­sponse in part­ner­ship with Pakistan and Iran to com­bat the desert lo­cust wave. This is pos­i­tive, and must be a tem­plate to deal with en­vi­ron­ment-re­lated chal­lenges.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.