Swarms of desert locusts have become the latest threat faced by coronavirus-hit India, with states scrambling to spray pesticides to prevent crop damage from the worst such attack in almost 30 years.
Crops and vegetable plantations in several Indian states, including Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh are in the path of the invading insects.
The government has stepped up its response with locust containment measures and a pesticide-spraying campaign which includes the use of drones.
Operations are being conducted in more than 300 locations across several districts of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, agriculture ministry spokesman Praveen Kavi said on Thursday.
Farms of vegetables, pulses and cotton crops have been attacked by the locusts which devour “any sort of vegetation or green”, a government official said.
This is the worst locust infestation India has seen since 1993, but swarms are not new to the country.
The insects arrive from Pakistan between July and October and mostly affect the northwestern Rajasthan state, said KL Gurjar from India’s Locust Warning Organisation.
Swarms of desert locusts have also been attacking entire areas of East Africa for months leading the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization to warn about threats to food security in the region.
The desert locust is among the most dangerous migratory pests in the world. A square-kilometre swarm can consume the equivalent of food for 35,000 people in one day, the UN agencies have warned.