Friday, July 6, 2007

Interrelated trouble: cyclones and locusts

Daily Times (Pakistan): Swarms of desert locusts from Ethiopia and northern Somalia are expected to cross the Indian Ocean and may reach India and Pakistan within the next few days, the Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Wednesday. The FAO advised both countries to closely monitor the potentially dangerous situation.

Two recent tropical cyclones that have caused heavy rainfall in Pakistan and western India will create unusually favourable breeding conditions for locusts until October along both sides of the Indo-Pak border and coastal areas of western Pakistan. “This is happening for the first time in many years,” FAO said.

The governments of India and Pakistan have been warned and are mobilizing field-teams, equipment and resources in Rajasthan and Gujarat, India as well as in Cholistan and Tharparkar deserts of Pakistan.

“Desert locusts usually fly with the wind and can travel a distance of about 100-150 km a day,” said FAO locust expert Keith Cressman. “Locusts can stay in the air for long periods of time, for example, they regularly cross the Red Sea, covering a distance of around 300 km.’’

Desert locusts have crossed the Indian Ocean with the monsoon winds in the past, which is a part of their natural migration.

They are migratory grasshoppers that often travel in vast swarms. A desert locust lives for about 3-5 months. Its lifecycle comprises three stages, an egg, hopper and finally, an adult. An adult desert locust consumes roughly its own 2-gram weight in fresh food every day. A very small part of an average swarm eats as much food in one day as about 2,500 people.

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