"We are battling a major locust attack from across the border. This is the biggest invasion in nearly three decades. The swarms are very big and they have migrated from across the border after breeding a month earlier than we were expecting," KL Gurjar, deputy director of India's Locust Warning Organisation, said.
The swarms flew across the border around 30 April, and they are still active in five districts of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Each of these one-square-kilometre swarms contains up to 40 million insects and they travel fast, sometimes up to 400km (248 miles) in a day, officials say.
"We are lucky that there is no crop in the fields now. But the locusts eat up all the green vegetation, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds and plants," Mr Gurjar said. An average small locust swarm, say officials, can eat as much food in a day as about 2,500 people. If not controlled, desert locusts can damage food supplies and cause famine. Some 45 million sq km of land in 90 countries are potentially prone or under the threat of invasion by the desert locust, according to the FAO.
"They have migrated here after breeding across the border. It is a severe attack," Om Prakash, a plant-protection officer, who works in Rajasthan state .
A 100-odd workers who are battling the insects, using vehicle-mounted sprayers, pesticides and drones in the searing desert heat. They are staying in the villages, where they are being given foods by locals, and going out at night to hunt down the insects in face masks and wearing some basic protective clothing. India, clearly, needs to be watchful in the months ahead. "We need to be alert and anticipate where this is going next. The situation is all the more alarming as it comes at a time when the affected states are already reeling under Covid-19 and the ongoing heatwave," says Anshu Sharma of Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society, a non-profit disaster management organisation.
A second wave of a locust attack has also hit East Africa. Africa's second most populous state, Ethiopia - along with regional economic powerhouse Kenya and politically unstable Somalia - are among countries worst hit. The UN estimates the swarms could be up to 20 times bigger than during the first invasion -and they could become 400 times bigger by June.