Blizzard of locusts ravages crops across India

Extreme Weather

Blizzard of locusts ravages crops across India

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Scientists say climate change has played a role in the massive, hungry swarm

A devastating cyclone, record-breaking heat waves, and now an invasion by crop-eating locusts: The Indian subcontinent is reeling under a nonstop barrage. 

The locust swarm is the worst India has seen in more than a quarter of a century. It has already blanketed several states in the western and central portions of the subcontinent, ravaging crops and foliage alike. The swarm is attacking states that have not seen locusts since 1993, even entering Maharashtra, a state that has not witnessed locusts since 1974. Moreover, the locusts themselves are different in 2020. 

“This time the attack is by very young locusts who fly for longer distances, at faster speeds, unlike adults in the past who were sluggish and not so fast,” K.L. Gurjar, the deputy director of India’s Locust Warning Organization, told the New York Times.

So what does this have to do with climate change? In an interview with Livemint, climate scientist Roxy Mathew Koll of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology claims that changes in rainfall patterns caused due to climate change are to blame for the ferocity of this locust attack. Global warming has resulted in unusually warm waters in the Indian Ocean, which initiated excessive rain and severe storms in Africa and the Arabian peninsula. This in turn created conditions ideal for the locusts to breed, allowing them to thrive. These locusts, through multiple breeding cycles, moved through Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan, eventually making their way to India. 

The swarms have ravaged their way across 50,000 hectares of land (nearly 125,000 acres) at a time when India is already faltering under the economic impact of the Covid-19 lockdown. A blow to its food security could prove to be disastrous.

To help calm the swarm, China may send 100,000 locust-eating ducks to Pakistan.