As the riots in the US grab the headlines this week, the unprecedented invasion by desert locusts has increased and hit large swathes of India and Pakistan who are in the middle in the middle of their battle with coronavirus pandemic. According to the FAO, large and aggressive swarms of these crop-devouring short-horned insects have invaded more than two dozen districts covering more than 50,000 hectares of desert areas of western India. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are the worst affected states. To make matters worse parts of India saw temperatures rise to 47.6C on Tuesday, as most of north India faced severe heatwave conditions. The heatwave, which officials say is likely to last until the weekend, comes even as the region struggles with rising Covid-19 infections and swarms of locusts that are ravaging crops. Churu in Rajasthan state recorded a temperature of 50 deg C (122 deg F), India's highest. To make matters worse, a powerful cyclonic storm in the Arabian Sea “is very likely to intensify into a Severe Cyclonic Storm during next 6 hours,” the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Wednesday. The cyclone, designated Nisarga, could make landfall between on the coastal border region of Maharashtra and Gujarat states, with winds gusting up to 120 km per hour (75 miles per hour), the equivalent of a category 1 hurricane, the IMD said.
In neighbouring Pakistan, authorities declared a nationwide emergency in February, saying locust numbers were the worst in more than two decades. Local reports say that farmers are fighting the "worst locust plague in nearly three decades" and the swarms were decimating crops and sending prices of food soaring. Some 38% of Pakistan's area spread over the provinces of Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab are "breeding grounds" for locusts, according to a report by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. "The situation is much more serious this year not only in Afghanistan, India, Iran and Pakistan but in all the frontline countries in Africa, and the Arabian peninsula," Muhammad Tariq Khan, director of Pakistan's Department of Plant Protection, claimed.
Below is an update of the locust swarms affecting some of the poorest countries in the world.
In the past few days, there have been movements of adult groups and swarms in India, Oman, UAE, and Uganda.
SOUTH-WEST ASIA Swarms are forming in the spring breeding areas and migrating east to the Indo-Pakistan border ahead of the monsoon rains.
• India. Spring-bred immature adult groups and swarms that arrived in Rajasthan from the west continued to move east in the eastern portion of the state and to the central states of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. As of 26 May, at least one swarm had reached to the northeast of Bhopal. Much of these movements were associated with strong westerly winds from Cyclone Amphan in the Bay of Bengal. Control operations are underway. Several successive waves of invasions can be expected until July in Rajasthan with eastward surges across northern India as far as Bihar and Orissa followed by westward movements and a return to Rajasthan on the changing winds associated with the monsoon. These movements will cease as swarms begin to breed and become less mobile. Swarms are less likely to reach south India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
• Pakistan. Adults are forming groups and small swarms in spring breeding areas in the southwest (Baluchistan) and the Indus Valley (Punjab). These infestations will move to the summer breeding areas along the Indo-Pakistan from the Cholistan to Tharparkar. Control operations are underway in all areas. • Iran. Adults are forming groups and small swarms in spring breeding areas along the southern coast and parts of Sistan-Baluchistan as vegetation is drying out. These infestations will move east to the Indo-Pakistan summer breeding areas. Control operations are underway.
ARABIAN PENINSULA Important breeding continues in Yemen in the absence of survey and control operations.
• Yemen. Breeding is continuing in areas of recent rains in the interior where hopper bands and mature swarms have formed.
• Oman. Several immature adult groups moved from the northern interior near the UAE border to the north coast where they are expected to move along the coast to Ras Al Hadd before crossing to southeast Pakistan. Other groups moved from the interior breeding areas to Dubai. Control operations are underway.
• Saudi Arabia. Control operations were carried out against immature adult groups in the northern interior near Hail and Gassim, and against mature adult groups further south near Wadi Dawasir and Najran.
EAST AFRICA The current situation remains extremely alarming in East Africa where Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia continue to face an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods. New swarms from current breeding will form from mid-June onwards, coinciding with the start of the harvest. Thereafter, there is a risk that swarms will migrate to the summer breeding areas along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border as well as to Sudan and perhaps West Africa.
• Kenya. Ground and aerial control operations continue against hopper bands in the northwest (Turkana, Marsabit). A few late-maturing swarms were seen south of Lodwar and new infestations were found along the Tana River where hopper bands are present.
• Ethiopia. A few immature and mature swarms remain in the south. Breeding has increased in the Ogaden and hopper bands have present. Breeding continues near Dire Dawa where hopper bands persist, and adults have formed groups and swarms. Breeding also occurred in Afar and on the eastern edge of the highlands, causing hopper bands to form. Ground and aerial control operations continue.
• Somalia. Breeding is underway in central areas (Galkayo and Galmudug) where scattered adults and hopper groups are present. Breeding is also underway in the northwest where hopper bands and groups of immature and mature adults are present on the plateau (east of Burao to the west of Boroma) and the coast near Bulhar. Hopper groups are also present in the northeast near Garowe. Control operations are underway.
• Uganda. On the 26 May, at least one swarm was seen in the northeast district of Kaaborg that was probably moving towards South Sudan.
• Sudan. Scattered gregarious adults are present near the South Sudan border at a few places in the Blue Nile, White Nile, and South Kordofan states. A few adults persist in the Nile Valley north of Kordofan. FAO
2020 Locust Plague
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