The second arrival . . .
South Asia is faced with yet another swarm of locusts plaguing agricultural land, larger and more aggressive than ever before. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FOA), around 38 per cent of Pakistan’s land has become the new breeding grounds for locusts that arrived there earlier in the year, which had prompted Karachi to declare a national emergency in February. In India, locusts have plagued the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat since February, but now authorities estimate that a new swarm of young insects has arrived from Pakistan and spread out to more than 50,000 hectares of agricultural land in seven Indian states. Currently, vehicle-mounted sprayers, pesticides, and drones have been deployed to battle the infestation.
Apocalyptic affairs in India . . .
In addition to the COVID-19 crisis, India has been hit by multiple natural disasters just in the past week alone. While Cyclone Amphan struck the east coast on May 20, the locust swarms invaded the northwest coast earlier this week, as the region faces intensifying heatwave conditions and multiple isolated incidents of forest fires. Straddled with putting out both literal and figurative fires on all sides, the Indian government now faces the possibility of severe food shortage and surging prices, exacerbated by nationwide lockdown measures. The United Nations estimates that the swarms could become 400 times bigger by June, potentially incentivizing closer co-operation among the three countries.
International collaboration . . .
While locust invasions are not a new phenomenon, the fast-breeding in recent years has caused an unprecedented growth of the swarms in East African and Southwest Asian countries, becoming a regional issue. As a result, a very unlikely, but required collaboration between India, Iran, and Pakistan may emerge. India has proposed a pesticide control mechanism to combat the locusts, an offer that has been welcomed by Iran, and the two await Pakistan’s response. We hope that despite the tensions between India and Pakistan, the urgency to control the pest may take precedence and lead to a rare collaboration.
- BBC: India combats locust attack amid Covid-19 pandemic
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Local food systems and COVID-19; A glimpse on India’s responses
- The Hindu: India reaches out to Pakistan to fight locusts