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India reaches out to Pak, Iran for coordinated response to contain desert locusts

Billions of insects forming swarms that spread over hundreds of thousands of acres have swept into Yemen, Iran, Pakistan, and India, threatening harvest.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | May 22, 2020 10:36:22 pm
Man beats “thalli” to make swarm of locust (Tiddi Dal) fly away from his field at village 4V near Sri Karanpur in SrI Ganga Nagar in Rajasthan.

India has reached out to Pakistan and Iran as desert locust is spreading in the region and threatening crops in these countries and elsewhere.

Billions of insects forming swarms that spread over hundreds of thousands of acres have swept into Yemen, Iran, Pakistan, and India, threatening harvest.

To further regional cooperation, sources said, India has proposed “coordinated response” to desert locust control to Iran and Pakistan.

India has suggested to Pakistan that both countries coordinate locust control operation along the border and that India can facilitate supply of pesticide Malathion to Pakistan.

The institutionalised mechanism of Locust Warning Organization could be energised for such cooperation, sources said. India has also offered to supply pesticide to Iran to carry out desert locust control operations in its Sistan-Balochistan and South Khorasan provinces. These efforts will contribute to mitigate the effect of desert locust not only in these countries, but also for India.

A source said, “Iran has already responded positively to the Indian offer. It remains to be seen if Pakistan will rise above its narrow-minded approach, as was seen in the case of India’s regional initiative for dealing with Covid-19, and come forward with cooperation on coordinated desert locust control operation with India.”

As per the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports, in Iran, hopper bands of the locust are maturing along the southwestern coastal plains, and another generation of breeding is underway in the southeast where hatching is taking place on the coast and in the interior of Sistan-Baluchistan. In Pakistan, adult groups are migrating to the India border from breeding areas in Baluchistan where hopper groups are present as well as in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan.

The FAO reports indicate that the desert locust population is expected to move from spring breeding of Balochistan to summer breeding along India-Pakistan border. In India, more adult groups and small swarms have arrived from Pakistan in the past weeks and moved east into Rajasthan, reaching Jodhpur.

India’s Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Ministry leads the efforts in locust control in the country. It also spearheads initiatives to foster regional cooperation.

With Pakistan, there is an existing institutionalised mechanism for such cooperation, including regular border meetings between locusts officers of the two countries.

Six border meetings between locust officers led by Plant Protection Advisers of India and Pakistan are held every year (June to November) either at Munabao (India side) and or at Khokhropar (Pakistan side) for exchanging information on locust situation of both the countries. Wireless communication between Jodhpur and Karachi is also maintained every year during this period (June to November) for exchange of locust information between the two countries.

In addition, regional cooperation on locust control is driven by FAO. India participates in the meetings/ sessions of the FAO’s Desert Locust Control Committee; participates and organizes the meetings/sessions of FAO’s Commission for Controlling Desert Locust in South West Asia; and participates in the Joint Survey Programmes with Pakistan and Iran organized by FAO.

“There is consensus that the Desert Locust could pose a grave challenge in 2020. The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Affairs has already started efforts in the matter. In March 2020, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture Kailash Choudhary himself participated in a South West Asian Region virtual meeting coordinated by FAO to discuss regional cooperation to combat desert locust problem,” the source said.

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