The voracious eaters who leave no vegetation green on their way, have finally descended on regions of Delhi. It was reported on Saturday morning that Gurgaon has experienced a massive upsurge of Locusts Swarm, and the Government released an advisory to remain indoors and apply insecticides at homes. India is experiencing the worst locust invasion in decades. Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai called for an emergency meeting to deal with the situation.
The swarms were first spotted in Rajasthan, later divided into three groups, and moved to Gurgaon, from there to Faridabad and Uttar Pradesh.
Locusts can also travel as far as 150 kilometres in a day, consuming food equal to their live weight. A small locust swarm has as many as 40 million locusts. One swarm can destroy crops enough to feed 2,500 people for a year. Each square kilometre devoured by desert locusts is equivalent to enough food to feed 35,000 people.
Over the years many techniques have been developed to deal with the crisis. A few important ones are listed below;
Breaking the cluster
Studies say Locusts are very susceptible to randomness. If it is possible to increase the randomness (noise) they experience, their cluster can be broken up. Continuous and loud noise can be generated using low flying aircraft. This method can be effective for smaller clusters. However, it may not bear good results as the swarm contains millions of locusts.
Spray of Biopesticides
For immediate control, the most effective, feasible, and widely adopted technique is the spray of biopesticides. In this method of locust control, A liquid pesticide is broken into fine droplets and sprayed directly over the swarm or on top of the vegetation they are feeding on. Spraying can be done either from the ground or from aircraft.
As an alternate food source for livestock and Humans:
Locust contains more than 70 % protein with essential amino acids. They contain Omega-3, iron, zinc, Vitamin C, folic acid, B12, and chitin, without cholesterol or saturated fat, antibiotics, and hormones. They can be used to prepare alternate feed for the poultry chickens, fisheries, pigs, and pets.
In parts of Africa, locusts and grasshoppers have been eaten for centuries. China and Middle East countries, like Israel, also eat Locusts as a strategy to deal with the upsurge.
A similar strategy was adopted in Pakistan after the locusts swarm hit the country. People used nets and trenches to catch the locusts after they settled down at night. The collected locusts were bought by government authorities for 20 Pakistani rupees per kg, which was later used by authorities to scale up production for poultry feed. Pakistan imports a large volume of Soyabean to prepare feed for the poultry. So after the Animal feed made from locusts, it was a win-win situation for both government and the public.
The government should set up an aerial monitoring system for surveillance of these swarms and warn the farmers beforehand in order to facilitate crop protection. A digital awareness program is needed throughout the country to deal with the Locust-Plague-like situation.