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South Asia: Locust Infestation - Feb 2020

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Disaster types
Insect Infestation

In Pakistan, ground control operations continue in spring breeding areas of Baluchistan against hopper groups in the interior (Dalbandin) and near the coast in Turbat, Gwadar and Lasbela. Similar operations are in progress against hoppper and adult groups in a few summer areas of Nara and Cholistan deserts. Teams treated 4 625 ha on 1-15 June. Adult groups will move from Baluchistan to the summer breeding areas along the Indo-Pakistan border where more hatching and the formation of hopper groups will occur. (FAO, 20 Jun 2019)

In Pakistan, ground control operations (4 000 ha) are underway against groups of mature adults that are laying in adjacent areas of Tharparkar and Cholistan deserts. Hatching and band formation will occur during the remainder of July. A second generation of breeding could start as soon as mid-August south of Rohri near the Indus Valley in Pakistan where early breeding occurred in May. The scale and extent of the summer breeding will depend on this year's monsoon rains, which are so far about two weeks late in arriving to the breeding areas along both sides of the border. (FAO, 16 Jul 2019)

According to initial estimates by the Chamber of Agriculture, as much as 40 percent of crops in the country have been destroyed. This includes food crops such as wheat and vegetables and commodity crops such as cotton. The extended monsoon season has provided conditions that have allowed the locusts to continue breeding and surviving for longer in the Indo-Pakistan border region. Food insecurity is already high in the country, with over 3 million people in IPC Phases 3 and 4, particularly in Balochistan and Sindh provinces. Damage to crops at this magnitude is not only a threat to food security in the affected communities, but also poses a challenge for livelihoods as many rural farmers use the money from selling crops to pay off debt and survive financially during the off season. (ACAPS, 21 Nov 2019)

In South-West Asia, locust infestations are declining along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border due to control operations, drying conditions and swarm migration towards the west. So far this month, Pakistan has treated more than 20 000 ha. Adult groups and swarms are expected to arrive in southwest Pakistan and southeast Iran during the next few weeks. Some swarms may continue moving west along the southern coast of Iran to areas of recent good rains. If temperatures remain warm, egg-laying could occur now, giving rise to hopper groups and bands in January; otherwise, breeding will commence in about February or March. Both countries are advised to be extremely vigilant in all areas and undertake regular surveys, supplemented by control operations whenever necessary. (FAO, 18 Dec 2019)

On 1 February, the government of Pakistan declared a national emergency over locust swarms, which have been destroying crops in Punjab region. The Ministry of National Food Security and Research and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) endorsed a $500,000 Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) to make FAO’s technical expertise available to national experts in order to strengthen their capacities to combat the Desert Locust infestation and improve locust management. (FAO, 16 Feb 2020)

Mature adult groups and swarmlets were seen copulating in Okara district of Punjab and Dera Ismail Khan and Lucky Marwat districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Spring breeding is in progress in the interior of Baluchistan between Khuzdar and Dalbandin, and on the southwest coast near Turbat where adult groups are laying eggs and early instar hopper groups are already forming. Ground teams treated 4 490 ha (18-29 Feb). New generation immature groups and swarms could start forming in Baluchistan by the end of March. (FAO, 3 Mar 2020)

As of 12 March, twenty one districts of Blochistan, Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provinces have been under the threat of desert locust infestation. The government has devised a national action plan for Desert Locust Control and Surveillance. Under the national action plan, districts committees are formed for coordination. 173 teams have been deployed across Pakistan in affected areas for surveillance and control of locust. FAO is providing technical, material and logistics support to the Ministry of Food Security. (OCHA, 12 Mar 2020)

A severe locust infestation is likely to affect domestic food production and vulnerable agropastoral populations. In North West Pakistan (former FATA), 1.27 million people are expected to be in Crisis or worse (IPC Phase 3 or above) by August 2020 (FSIN, 20 Apr 2020).

As of 26 April, overall 124,299 area has been surveyed in vulnerable areas, and 8,843 square kilometers have been treated. During the next few weeks, spring breeding will continue in coastal and interior areas of Baluchistan and an increasing number of hoppers will become adults and form groups as well as perhaps a few small swarms. There is no major presence of locust in Sindh, only some in Ghotki, near the border. This year the situation is aggravated as for the first time in many decades, there is a second threat of invasion by swarms in East Africa in late June and during July (FAO, 4 May 2020).

As of 13 May, new swarms from current breeding will form from mid-June onwards, coinciding with the start of the harvest. At this time, there is a risk that swarms will migrate to the summer breeding areas along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border. In Pakistan, adult groups are migrating to the Indian border from breeding areas in Baluchistan and the Indus Valley where hopper groups are present as well as in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Control operations are underway in all affected provinces of Pakistan. (Govt. of Pakistan,13 May 2020)

In Pakistan, desert locust breeding is ongoing across 38 percent of land area (60 percent in Balochistan, 25 percent in Sindh and 15 percent in Punjab), with the entire country under threat of an invasion if the pest is not contained. The country currently has over 3 million people in severe acute food insecurity. Further damage to crops at this magnitude poses a challenge for livelihood resilience. On May 22, FAO has launched humanitarian response plan to provide livelihood support for 19,500 households affected by the crisis (FAO,22 May 2020).

[Three] Indian States of Madhya Pradesh (MP), Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh (UP) are currently dealing with locusts attack. This is the second round of locust attack in India after the December-February period. As per media reports, 17 districts of UP, 16 districts of Rajasthan and 12 districts of MP have been affected, with the standing crops having been destroyed. In Rajasthan, during the past weeks, small swarms of desert locusts, had already arrived from Pakistan, moving east into Rajasthan, and reaching Jodhpur. Agricultural departments of the affected states are launching initiatives to deal with the crisis. Locusts attacks in India usually last until November but this year the swarms stayed until February which scientists believe was due to the climate crisis. India has proposed a trilateral response in partnership with Pakistan and Iran to combat the desert locust wave sweeping across the Afro-Asian region. (ECHO, 25 May 2020)

As of 26 May, an estimated 1.5 million people have been affected by swarms of desert locusts since January 2020 in what is being called the worst locust outbreak in Pakistan in over 25 years. Pakistan is an important front-line country for desert locusts as it lies on their migratory route and because it covers both summer and winter/spring breeding areas. The existing situation in Pakistan is far worse than initially anticipated, affecting significant areas of food crops, orchards, and fodder, with negative consequences on food security, nutrition, and livelihoods across all provinces. The ongoing response to eradicate and control the locust swarms is being led by the Government with the support of the international community (OCHA, 26 May 2020).

In Pakistan, the National Locust Control Centre (NLCC) of National Disaster Management Authority announced on 7 June that an area of 5,245 square kilometers had been cleared from desert locusts in the affected areas of 46 districts in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan, while a survey on 260,785 sq km has been completed. The NLCC bulletin indicated that additional adult groups and swarms would form in Balochistan, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and move to Cholistan, Nara and Tharparkar along the India-Pakistan border where they would mature and lay eggs with the onset of monsoon rains. This will be supplemented by other spring-bred swarms arriving from Iran during June and East Africa from early July onwards. Locusts that arrive in advance of the rains are likely to settle in cropping areas or continue east to India (Dawn, 8 Jun 2020).

As of 11 June, according to details released by the National Locust Control Center (NLCC), anti-locust operations have been carried out in an area of 5,668 square kilometers approximately 1.4 million hectares across 51 affected districts of the country. (OCHA, 11 June 2020).

The Government of Pakistan’s preliminary estimate of monetary losses due to desert locusts over the two coming agricultural seasons in 2020 and 2021 may range from US$3.4 billion to $10.21 billion. Locust damage has significantly affected many farmers already, with further significant locust damage forecast at the end of summer. More than 3 million people in Pakistan are facing severe acute food insecurity, with the situation particularly precarious in Balochistan. It is estimated that approximately 34,000 households will need of emergency livelihood and food-security assistance due to crop losses. Many more people may be indirectly affected by crop losses leading to price rises in key commodities. (OCHA, 15 June 2020).

Locust infestations in Southwest Pakistan are seeing a decline as a result of control operations and migration of locusts swarms to summer breeding areas along the Indo-Pakistan border. In Western Rajasthan, India, the locusts swarm is moving back and forth at the border area to Pakistan. However, the lack of monsoon rain is favouring the movement of the spring-bred adult swarms further east into several states of northern India. With the onset of the monsoon rain the swarms are likely to return to Rajasthan to breed. Pakistan and India are expected to continue facing challenges with the beginning of summer breeding in July. To prevent desert locusts upsurges, FAO conducts monitoring, early warning and control operations in both countries (OCHA, 23 June 2020).

As of 1 Jul, locust swarms have already started laying eggs in Nagarparkar in Sindh near India Border. Locust swarms are also present in the Indus valley and started to form hopper bands in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. WFP and FAO are jointly launching assessment in locust affected districts across the country to assess the scale of losses and determine the livelihood recovery needs of the targeted communities (OCHA, 1 Jul 2020).

Risk of swarm migration from Horn of Africa to Indo-Pakistan increases. New reports of Desert Locust swarms further east in northern Somalia suggest that migration from northeast Somalia across the Indian Ocean to the summer breeding areas along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border could be imminent. Summer breeding has commenced along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border where numerous swarms are present mainly in Rajasthan, India. Hatching and band formation will increase during this month in Rajasthan and northern Gujarat, India as well as adjacent areas of Tharparkar, Nara and Cholistan deserts in Pakistan. A few swarms continue to be seen further east in Uttar Pradesh, India and at least one swarmlet reached the central plains of Nepal on 12 July where they are likely to disperse or return towards Rajasthan without causing significant damage or breeding. A few residual populations remain in the spring breeding areas of southeast Iran and southwest Pakistan. (FAO, 13 Jul 2020)

Desert Locust swarms continue to persist along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border. In Pakistan, control operations continue against hopper groups and bands in southeast Sindh near Nagarparkar and the India border. Low numbers of adults are present in Cholistan and Lasbela where breeding will occur. In India, only a few spring-breed adult groups and swarms remain in northern Rajasthan as most of the first-generation laying has finished. As a result, widespread hatching and the formation of hopper groups and bands is underway. Control operations continue. (FAO, 7 Aug 2020)

The risk of swarm migration to the Indo-Pakistan summer breeding area has nearly subsided. Good progress is being made against the first generation of hopper groups and bands that have formed mainly in Rajasthan, India and to a lesser degree in Tharparkar district in southern Sindh, Pakistan. This was the result of more than 1,000 teams, 750 vehicles and nearly 6,000 staff involved in the ground control campaign in Pakistan and hundreds of teams in India. (FAO, 24 Aug 2020)

The extensive hatching and hopper band formation occurred in India and, on a smaller scale, in southeast Pakistan. Intensive control operations significantly reduced the infestations that will limit a second generation of breeding in September. It is foretasted that the hoppers will form adult groups and smaller swarm along Indo-Pakistan border that will mature and lay eggs, causing a second but smaller generation of hopper bands in October. (FAO, 2 Sep 2020)

In India, during May-June 2020, Government of Rajasthan reported crop damage of 33% and more due to locust attack in 2235 hectare area in Bikaner, 140 hectare in Hanumangarh, and 1027 hectare area in Sri Ganganagar. However, as per revised report, it has been stated that earlier submitted data was related to initial stage of crop sown in Kharif season and this area of crop loss has been re-sown by farmers. State Governments of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have reported crop damage of less than 33% in 6520 ha, 4400 ha, 806 ha, 488 ha and 267 ha respectively due to locust attack this year. State Government of Rajasthan has reported that a relief of Rs. 132.54 crores have been paid to 79,922 farmers due to locust attack from State Disaster Response Fund in the form of Agriculture input subsidy. State Government of Gujarat has reported that a total amount of approximately Rs. 18.74 crore has been paid to 9137 farmers as agricultural input subsidy from the State Disaster Response Fund. (Govt. of India, 18 Sep 2020)

During September, the situation improved dramatically in Pakistan. In Sidh, a very limited second generation of breeding occurred west of Hyderabad, and in Tharparkar south of Chachro where early instar hopper groups were present at a few places. In Cholistan, groups of immature adults were present south of Bahawalpur, and near Islamgarh. In the Lasbela Valley, several hopper groups and bands were present south of Uthal that gave rise to two small immature swarms during the last decade of the month. Ground teams treated 3,645 ha. No locusts were seen elsewhere in Punjab, KPK, Sindh, and on the coast of Baluchistan. Locust numbers will continue to decline in all areas. A few small residual infestations may persist in Lasbela. No significant development are likely. In India, by early September, the situation had improved dramatically, and no locusts were seen during intensive surveys in Rajasthan and Gujarat throughout the month. Small residual populations of scattered adults may be present in a few places in Rajasthan. No significant developments are likely. (FAO, 5 Oct 2020)

During October, in Pakistan, a few mid-instar hopper groups were seen in Tharparkar south of Chachro, and along the Indus River near Hyderabad at the beginning of the month. Scattered immature solitarious adults mixed with a few mature adults were present in Cholistan near near Islamgarh. In the Lasbela Valley, a few immature adult groups were seen south of Uthal on the 17th. Ground teams treated 220 ha. No locusts were seen elsewhere in Punjab, KP, Sindh, and in Baluchistan on the coast and in eastern interior. Locust numbers will continue to decline in summer breeding areas. A few small residual infestations may persist in Lasbela, and low numbers of adult may appear in Baluchistan. No significant developments are likely. In India, no locusts were seen during surveys in Rajastan and Gujarat. (FAO, 2 Nov 2020)