Prepare for another wave of locust attacks

In an advisory on July 21, the Food and Agriculture Organization said that adult groups and swarms of desert locusts are maturing throughout Rajasthan and that substantial hatching is expected in the coming weeks. This indicates that a second wave of attack — the first happened in western and northern India in May — could happen again in the coming months. In the first installment, parts of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh had to battle the scourge. Despite being caught off-guard — the last major attack was in 1993 — the states were moderately successful in tackling the problem by spraying organophosphate to kill locusts.

The desert locust is one of 12 species of short-horned grasshoppers; its swarms can have billions and 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 standing crops, but canalso devastate livelihoods of those associated with the agricultural supply chain.

Now that FAO has issued a warning, the states and the central government must be battle-ready, not just for this round but also for the future because the climate crisis will lead to increase in such episodes. This means that the government must strengthen the Locust Warning Organization, which was almost disbanded because no attack had happened in two decades, by ensuring that they have adequate field staff, sprayers and spray vehicles required for locust control, and make sure that states follow its standard operating procedure for spraying of insecticides by drones, airplanes and helicopters before things get out of hand.