India Mounts Massive Pesticide Attack on Destructive Locust Swarms

Locusts are on their way to India after devastating vegetation and villages in Africa and Pakistan.

The country has already had to battle them this year, with Fortune reporting that a January attack killed more than 61,000 acres of vegetation including fields of potatoes and cumin. It was apparently one of the worst swarms in more than 25 years.

Now, officials are spraying pesticides in at least four provinces spanning more than 100,000 acres.

The Hindustan Times reports that they’re spraying Malathion 96 and Chlorpyrifos, which are organophosphate pesticides. Both are very powerful, the former is considered carcinogenic and has been associated with lymphoma diagnoses, while the latter can cause weakness, vomiting, and even paralysis.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says the influx of locusts could be declared a plague if it reaches certain levels.

Their movements are “associated with strong westerly winds from Cyclone Amphan in the Bay of Bengal…several successive waves of invasions can be expected until July.”

Officials are bringing out the big-guns so to speak because it’s the only effective way to eradicate them. In an interview with the times, one officials says there are consequences to their application:

“These pesticides will drift and residue will remain. They will definitely disturb the ecological balance of the area and kill natural enemies—pests which can counter other crop pests. So, we can expect outbreak of other pests,” said the executive director at the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.

He added that the locusts have a short life cycle but they can return to their breeding sites because they can fly long distances.

The FAO adds that locust invasions in East Africa, including Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia, are an “unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods.” Ground and aerial operations continue in those areas.


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