NOT IN PINK OF HEALTH: Unwelcomed winged visitors infest Jaipur (PTI Photo)
NEW DELHI: A swarm of desert locusts that infested Jaipur on Monday morning could be headed towards the capital, if wind speed is favourable. Delhi has been kept on alert as such swarms are currently active in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, which is the most affected state.
Normally, desert locusts are seen in western Rajasthan and Gujarat from June to November, but they were first spotted by the Union agriculture ministry’s Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) in April. What’s more concerning is that usually they are either solitary or in small groups, meaning the current swarming is unusual.
Entomologists said despite being an urban setting, the impact on Delhi could be severe as 22% of its area is under green cover, which can provide foraging material for the locusts. LWO deputy director K L Gurjar on Monday said, “The locusts may move towards Delhi in the next few days if wind speed and direction are favourable. As of today, the wind speed moved them north.”
IMD has been asked to monitor the meteorological conditions to help the agricultural ministry forecast where the locusts may be headed next. Kuldeep Srivastava, scientist at IMD and head of Regional Weather Forecasting Centre in Delhi, said, “Wind direction is favourable at the moment, largely remaining northwesterly.” Mohammad Faisal, an entomologist at Yamuna Biodiversity Park, said the capital could suffer greatly, even if it had very little agricultural area. “The swarm, after surviving winter in the desert, moved out due to lack of food. Jaipur has plenty of green spaces, including parks, thus providing foraging material for them,” he added.
“Delhi’s green areas can be impacted severely. A very small, one square kilometre locust swarm can eat the same amount of food in a day as about 35,000 people,” said Faisal, adding that in the past they have been known to affect water supply and railway lines. After their attack, railway tracks become slippery and need to be cleaned. They have been known to clog wells too. Faisal said, “A single locust can lay up to 500 eggs. We need to tackle not just the swarm, but their breeding grounds too.” Sohail Madan from Bombay Natural History Society said the swarm might not only impact gardens and greenery, but other insects who depended on the same plants for survival. Aswarm can be made up of 150 million locusts per square kilometre carried on the wind up to 150km in a day, experts said