Locust menace | FAO asks India to be on high alert for next 4 weeks

India, which is tackling the worst locust attack in 26 years for the last three months, should remain on “high alert” during the next four weeks, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Meanwhile, the Indian government has stepped up efforts and is using latest technology and equipment like drones and Bell helicopters for control of the menace.

Rajasthan is the most affected state in the country. The other affected states are Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Bihar. In its latest update, the FAO said that spring-bred locust swarms that migrated to Indo-Pakistan border and travelled east to northern states, are expected to return back to Rajasthan with the start of monsoon in coming days.

These swarms will return to Rajasthan to join other swarms still arriving from Iran and Pakistan, which is expected to be supplemented by swarms from the Horn of Africa in about mid-July, it added. “Early breeding has already occurred along the Indo-Pakistan border where substantial hatching and band formation will take place in July that will cause the first-generation summer swarms to form in mid-August,” FAO said.

India and Pakistan as well as Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia should remain on “high alert during the next four weeks,” it noted.

According to the Union Agriculture Ministry, swarms of immature pink locusts and adult yellow locusts are active in Jaisalmer, Barmer, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Dausa, and Bharatpur of Rajasthan, and Jhansi and Mahoba districts of Uttar Pradesh.

However the government is continuing the control operations to check damage to crops from locust attacks. On July 4, a Bell Helicopter took its first sortie in Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan and completed its mission of chemical spraying in targeted areas, thereby augmenting the locust control efforts.