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Opinion

Coping with the locust attack | HT Editorial – Editorials

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As India battles the coronavirus pandemic, four Indian states, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Gujarat, also face another challenge: a desert locust attack. Sixteen of the 33 districts of Rajasthan are fighting the scourge; Madhya Pradesh has reported one of the worst attacks in 27 years in the Nimar-Malwa region; and, Punjab and Gujarat have warned farmers that they may be next. Reports say the swarms threaten to touch the Rajasthan-Haryana border, and then they could move to Delhi. The current round is the second attack of this type; the first was from December to February. India was moderately successful in addressing the problem, and states deployed organophosphate spray kits to kill lobsters.

The desert locust is one of 12 species of short-horned grasshopper; 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 the livelihoods of those associated with the agricultural supply chain. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations warned that the locust attack could pose a major threat to food security. Locust attacks are not new to India, but they used to leave India in November. But the swarms remained until early February of this year. This, according to scientists, was due to the climate crisis. In 2019, the monsoon started six weeks earlier (first week of July) in western India. It also lasted until November, instead of the usual September / October cycle. Prolonged rains created breeding conditions and also produced natural vegetation that lobsters feed on. The May attack was attributed to a series of cyclones in the Indian Ocean that hit a sandy area on the Arabian peninsula, providing hospitable breeding conditions for lobsters.

The current global challenges (the coronavirus pandemic, the increasing intensity of cyclones (as Amphan has shown), the locust attacks in Africa, Iran, Pakistan and India) demonstrate the dangers of environmental degradation and the need for international cooperation to combat cross-border challenges. India has proposed a trilateral response in partnership with Pakistan and Iran to combat the desert lobster wave. This is positive and should be a template to face the challenges related to the environment.

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