India is hit by worst plague of locusts for three decades as it records record number of coronavirus infections
- The locusts have already destroyed 125,000 acres of cropland across India
- Drones, tractors and cars have been sent out to spray the pests with pesticide
- Meanwhile, Indian health ministry officials today reported a total of 145,380 coronavirus infections and a death toll of 4,167
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Huge swarms of desert locusts are destroying crops across western and central India, prompting authorities today to step up their response to the country’s worst plague in nearly three decades.
Drones, tractors and cars have been sent out to track the voracious pests and spray them with pesticides. The locusts have already destroyed nearly 125,000 acres of cropland.
‘Eight to 10 swarms, each measuring around a square kilometre (0.4 square miles) are active in parts of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh,’ the government’s Locust Warning Organisation’s deputy director K.L. Gurjar told AFP.
The insects caused massive damage to seasonal crops in both states, devastating many farmers already struggling with the impact of a strict coronavirus lockdown.
In this photograph taken yesterday a resident tries to fend off swarms of locusts from a mango tree in a residential area of Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan
In this photograph taken yesterday, swarms of locusts are seen on top of a residential building in Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan
People wait in a line to board a train that will take them to their home state of Uttar Pradesh, during an extended lockdown to slow the spreading of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Mumbai, India today. India has become the fourth most-affected country
They destroyed harvests in the agricultural heartlands of neighbouring Pakistan in April, before entering Rajasthan.
Smaller swarms are also active in a handful of states across India, Gurjar said.
A swarm of 40 million locusts can eat as much food as 35,000 people – or six elephants – according to UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Residential areas in the state capital Jaipur were overwhelmed by the insects as bewildered locals banged on pots and pans to try and ward off the insects.
Experts warn the situation could worsen with more expected to reach India via Pakistan from the Horn of Africa in June.
Heavy rains and cyclones enabled unprecedented breeding and the rapid growth of locust populations on the Arabian peninsula early last year, according to the United Nations.
India has not seen locust swarms on this scale since 1993 when it experienced a widespread plague, the warning centre said.
Locusts destroy crops in some parts of Rajasthan close to the border with Pakistan most years, but it is rare for the insects to move further into the state.
Wind patterns have been pushing the swarms southwest, the locust warning centre said.
Coronavirus infections rose by 6,535 in India today, leading the country to become the fourth most affected by the virus worldwide.
The South Asian nation now trails only Russia, Brazil and the US on total number of cases.
Despite its new ranking, New Delhi has continued to maintain a relatively low death rate.
Today health ministry officials reported a total of 145,380 coronavirus infections and a death toll of 4,167.
They said that India’s death rate stood at 0.3 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to what they said was a world average of 4.4.