‘Swarmageddon’ looks like this: Locusts fly into NCR
Giant swarms of desert locusts, one of them about 5km in length, burst into Gurgaon around 11am on Saturday and snapped through some of its most populated and upscale neighbourhoods, spreading alarm and awe at a sight associated with a National Geographic programme, not looking out of one’s window. As the pests speckled the city skies for two hours, sirens blared and residents clanged utensils across colonies and scores of highrises — where people in the upper floors saw the swarm fly past their balconies and windows at eye level — to repel the locusts. The wind eventually carried the swarm into Faridabad and onward towards western UP. The locusts invaded parts of Delhi too but largely flew past the outskirts of the capital. The last swarm left the Gurgaon urban area around 1.15pm.
Noida sounded an alert later in the day as a swarm was spotted over Dankaur in the evening, flying in the direction of Bulandshahr. Noida administration officials did not rule out another swarm coming in on Sunday morning after slowing down in the fields near Jewar overnight.
Locusts give Gurgaon crops a miss
The original swarm that entered Gurgaon came from Rajasthan and flew into the city via Rewari. The locusts came in three batches — one from Pataudi around 11am that flew in the direction of Nuh, one via Sector 4 that moved towards Delhi and a third via Kherki Daula that flew in the direction of Cyber City and MG Road and eventually Faridabad.
Thick swarms were seen in sectors 4 and 5, the Gurgaon railway station area, Palam Vihar, Cyber City, DLF phases 1 and 2, MG Road and Gurgaon-Faridabad road. Residents flooded social media with photos and videos of the pests on balcony walls, swarming over neighbourhoods and buzzing around highrise residential towers.
Locusts are feared because they devour crops, leaves, fruits and even flowers, and can cause large-scale agricultural damage within a few hours. But unlike a few weeks ago, when desert locusts had damaged crops in several western states, the agricultural fields around Gurgaon were spared this time. “There are no reports of damage in the district.
The good thing is that the locusts did not settle on the ground, which is why the crops were saved,” said Atmaram Godara, deputy director in the agriculture department.
Haryana agriculture minister JP Dalal said there had been a warning about a swarm of locusts invading Haryana for the past six months. According to him, the insects — from the grasshopper family — had come all the way from Pakistan.
The central government issued a statement, saying the swarms were first spotted in Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu on Friday morning and had travelled towards UP by Saturday afternoon. “…The swarm divided into three groups, one of which moved towards Gurgaon, and from there to Faridabad and to Uttar Pradesh. Another locust swarm moved towards Dwarka in Delhi, from there to Daulatabad, Gurgaon, Faridabad and this swarm also entered UP. The third group was seen in Palwal. As of now, no locust swarms are spotted in any city areas,” the statement said.
Officials said teams from Rajasthan, Haryana and UP were working along with members of the Central Locust Warning Organisation to track the movement of the insects.
After the swarm had entered Rewari on Friday evening, the Gurgaon administration had issued an advisory, asking farmers to keep water pumps handy so they could spray the locusts if they descend on the ground. The agriculture department had also kept 200 tractor trolleys ready to spray chlorpyrifos on the insects.
For the city’s residents, though, this was the first time they had seen lakhs of locusts flying within sniffing distance. Many took to social media and posted videos and pictures of swarms flying or settled on their balconies or windows.
In Delhi, too, residents were equally surprised. Shamim Khan, a fruit seller near Arjangarh metro station, said the sky had turned dark and he had to scurry under the tarpaulin sheet he had put up to save himself from the rain. “I went under the tarpaulin sheet and stayed there till the locusts flew by. It crossed the metro station and flew towards Delhi. Some also descended on the road for some time,” he added.
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