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Piranhas in sky!

Shashikant Singh
/ Categories: DSIJ Mindshare
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Piranhas in sky!

Grasshoppers are usually the least of all concerns to disturb a farmer’s sleep. That’s because, usually, they like a very solitary life. However, what if, due to some climatic changes, they form an army of millions, capable of travelling 150 km a day and wage an attack on vegetation?

In East Africa alone, more than 1,00,000 hectares of crops have been ravaged. Locusts swarm which can be as big as 250 football fields (combined), possess great danger to Indian vegetation system since each locust eats as much as its entire body weight a day i.e. around more than 200 tonnes a day.

Meanwhile, it seems locusts love breeding. A single female desert locust can lay 60-90 eggs thrice during its 90-day life cycle. Eggs that have remained in the ground for 20 years can also hatch. This can turn out to be a serious population explosion problem. Besides, there would be no stopping to this vegetation massacre, until:

  1. The population is controlled.

  2. The current of winds increases and this swarm would be forced to go away as all the flight required to cover such massive migration is derived from winds. Smart! Aren’t they?

India, an agricultural country, can turn out to be the feast capital of the world for these locust swarms. Nevertheless, locusts are fond of cotton, wheat, etc. and these grow in abundance in India.

India is facing the worst locust attack in 26 years. In India, as of now, more than 50,000 hectares of land have been affected. However, this isn’t going to affect India’s food security as more than 100 million tonnes of food grains are well-stocked at the end of April since the annual requirement stands at 50-60 million tonnes. The problem lies somewhere else as in Rabi crops have been harvested; it is the Kharif crops that seem to be in danger as locusts will start laying eggs just after the monsoon.

There has to be some leverage if such a problem is about to take place. From the biblical plagues of Egypt to modern-day infestation, locusts swarm has caused chaos throughout history. Locust swarms are formed by many neighbours but that does not make them ‘neighbourly’. The reason why locusts need to keep on moving is that, if there is no food, they may turn into cannibals and start preying on each other. Measures like concentrating locusts by using nets address local concerns. Spraying of insecticides has problems of its own, as it can possibly kill animals grazing on pastures (as reported in Kenya). Excessive spraying hampers the soil & food quality. Perhaps, one of the most effective ways to counter this problem is by addressing the roots of it. That is, by controlling the breeding. Prevention is the best medicine.

Economically, the loss of Kharif crops and vegetation in the upcoming months will lead to an increase in inflation. Coupled with a fall in income caused by COVID-19 as well as the migration of Indian labourers to their natives in the upcoming months, may very well see an increase in India’s poverty rate.

India’s economic growth, in the near future, looks grim as of now. If locusts swarm is not controlled on time, India will have many more mouths to feed and the after-effects will be even more severe.

We can just hope to not reach that stage!

As of now, and forever, all we need to remember is, ‘It only takes few locusts to form a swarm.’

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