Pak PM Urges National Organized Response to Locust Attack

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the federal and provincial governments and organizations to respond to locust attacks to ensure food safety, the Prime Minister Office said.

While visiting Islamabad’s National Locust Control Center to review the locust situation, Khan said locust attacks in parts of the country combined with COVID-19 have become a huge challenge for Pakistan, according to a statement released by the office on Friday, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Prime Minister was briefed on the country’s efforts to track, survey and track, inter- organizational cooperation, resource distribution and mobilization and awareness campaigns for locust management. Khan said his government will undertake every possible effort for locust control since it involves food security of the country, according to the statement.

Due to the trans-boundary nature of locust swarm movement, Pakistan has maintained close liaison with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and affected countries in the region to take timely pre-emptive measures, the statement said.

At a briefing to the diplomatic community in Islamabad, Pakistan had called for regional and international cooperation to combat desert locusts in Pakistan and beyond, the country’s foreign ministry said late Thursday.

The Pakistani government earlier this year declared national emergency over locust swarms after the pest destroyed large quantities of crops across the country.

What’s a locust? Why is it a threat to India? And, what are we doing to combat it? As predicted by the United Nations, India is witnessing armies of locusts swarming across the country – the worst such attack in 26 years. The insects are destroying crops even as the country has been brought to a standstill amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

At present, the primary method of controlling desert locust swarms is by spraying small concentrated doses of chemicals, by vehicle-mounted and aerial sprayers.

However, this year, India is experimenting with a different approach. BR Karwa, project director, Agricultural Technology Management Agency, told IANS, “It is for the first time that drones and planes will be used to fight the locust attack in Rajasthan.”

Unlike in the past, the locusts have changed their attack strategy this season and are flying at a greater height – against their basic nature. They usually fly in the low lying areas. Hence, Union Minister for Agriculture Kailash Chowdhary has requested the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to help the government with planes that can fight the locust menace from a height by spraying pesticides, he informed.

Despite the prevailing COVID-19 lockdown, the locust control offices are working since 11 April with 50 spray equipment/vehicles, the Union minister added. “India’s central government has to go beyond giving alerts and advisories on managing the locust outbreak, and immediately arrange for aerial sprays of pesticides to control the rapidly escalating situation.

The states do not have the wherewithal to manage the scale of the outbreak this year.” Which other countries are affected by locusts? According to FAO, the current situation remains “extremely alarming” in East Africa where Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia continue to face an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihood.

They have also reached Saudi Arabia and Iran to Pakistan and of course India, all while breaking into smaller swarms to travel across the country. According to media reports, India has reached out to both Pakistan and Iran for a coordinated effort in dealing with the growing locust population in the region.

Meanwhile, Pakistan declared a national emergency to tackle locusts in January 2020, after predictions estimated that the country will incur a loss of more than 4 billion Euros with respect to both summer and winter crops. Experts warn that rising temperature, low rainfall and long dry spells could mean more locust swarms in our near future.

“Climate change may well play a role here, mainly because, according to forecasts by international climate researchers, precipitation will increase in the southern Arabian Peninsula and northern East Africa. This means that there will be more frequent very humid phases; such as we have had since 2018, and it is therefore possible that such swarms will simply occur more frequently.”

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