As concerns mount over a possible locust attack in southern part of Punjab, the agrarian state is blaming Pakistan for not checking the breeding of the pests in that country’s desert area bordering Rajasthan in India. The Indian Express explains:
What is the issue?
Punjab is fearing a locust attack in southern parts of the state as locust hoppers have been sighted in a couple of villages in three districts bordering Rajasthan. Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to press upon Islamabad to control the breeding of locusts in Pakistan.
Why is Pakistan being blamed?
According to Punjab Agriculture Secretary Kahan Singh Pannu, locusts have found a perfect breeding ground in Pakistan’s desert area bordering India’s Rajasthan. While Pakistan checked the breeding of locusts in Bhawalpur and their side of Punjab, where they have crops, it failed to take similar measures in its dessert areas. Now locusts from Pakistan have entered Rajasthan and attacked crops in that state and Gujarat. Punjab was spared of the attack. Surveillance by scientists of Punjab Agricultural University at Abohar had revealed the presence of locusts in small numbers or groups (5 to 20 hoppers) in three districts and had said that such small groups would not cause any economic damage to agricultural and horticultural crops.
Punjab feels that if the issue is taken up at the international level, especially with Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, the breeding of locusts could be stopped in Pakistan.
What has the Punjab government done?
Punjab has directed Markfed to purchase 10,000 litres of pesticide effective on locusts and asked a private company to keep stock of 30,000 litres of pesticide ready.
The Agriculture department has already pressed into service several special monitoring and survey teams in vulnerable parts of southern Punjab to keep a around the clock close tab on the situation. These teams have been constantly surveying the districts of Bathinda, Muktsar Sahib and Fazilka in the vicinity of Rajasthan border.
Additional Chief Secretary (Development) Viswajeet Khanna is also extensively touring Abohar and the adjoining areas to asses the prevailing situation and evolve a multi-pronged strategy to combat any unforeseen exigency arising out of the locust swarms.
What is the government’s take on the attack?
Pannu said Punjab had nothing to worry. The entire machinery has been alerted and pesticides were ready in stock in case of an eventuality. He said Punjab government just wanted the issue to be taken up at the international level so that the threat in the entire region could be checked.
Why is the issue being raised at international level?
For effective control of locust population, the government feels that pesticides should be sprayed with the help of helicopters and drones. “We all know Pakistan does not have enough money. Using drones and helicopters would require a lot of money. Hence, involving UN could help in eliminating the locust population by using means that entail finances,” Pannu said.
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