[ad_1]

NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan have barely been on talking terms, with even the Kartarpur corridor not free of barbs, but the countries held five meetings unmarred by differences in the past few months to deal with a common enemy – the deadly desert locust.
This liaison will continue as there is a forecast of bigger invasion of “greater magnitude” from June this year onward than witnessed in 2019 when farmers of certain districts in Rajasthan and Gujarat faced damage to their standing crops.
“It is also predicted that, invasion could occur in scheduled desert area (2 lakh sq km) of India in June 2020 with advent of Monsoon by spring-bred swarms from southeast Iran, southwest Pakistan and the Horn of Africa that may be of a greater magnitude than last year,” said an agriculture ministry’s note on locust attack.
The short-horned grasshopper targetted both India and Pakistan, attacking the standing winter (Rabi) crop before being finally controlled by January. Five meetings between the two countries were held at Munabao in India and Khokhropar in Pakistan during June-December last year to exchange information on tackling the menace.
Though Pakistan had to declare a ‘national emergency’ due to the locusts, India could minimise the damage by successfully checking breeding and forward movement. India’s effort recieved a compliment from UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) which keeps a constant eye on locust situation and issues forecast.
Asked about India’s preparedness in view of the likelihood of a bigger invasion in June, minister of state for agriculture Kailash Choudhary told TOI on Saturday that the Centre would procure 60 specialised sprayers (equipped with latest technology), use helicopters and additional drones for aerial spraying of pesticides.
“We are fully prepared to control such situation in future. We have been in touch with home, civil aviation and defence ministries to enhance our aerial capabilities to deal with locust attack,” said Choudhary, MP from Barmer, one of the eight districts of Rajasthan vulnerable to locusts.
The junior minister claimed “had India not controlled spread of locus effectively, it would have even reached Bangladesh” – as had happened in 1950 when then eastern Pakistan faced a massive attack and remained under locust influence for next 14 consecutive years.
“There were five meetings held between India and Pakistani officials over the locust attack issue. We did not let it spread beyond five districts in India and FAO appreciated our efforts,” said the minister. He added FAO said India’s efforts could be showcased in African countries which are more prone to such attacks.
FAO’s senior locust forecasting officer Keith Cressman, who visited India on January 16-17, noted India’s successful efforts in containing the outbreak. “Clearly if this had not been the case, tremendous crop damage would have occurred in Rajasthan that would have had significant impacts on food security and livelihoods in western India and beyond. There would have been a massive invasion of Pakistan and India by swarms originating in Rajasthan,” said Cressman in his report.
India, which last faced such a situation in 1993, has more than 2 lakh sq km of vulnerable area (four times the size of Punjab) covering eight districts of Rajasthan and two of Gujarat. Globally, 30 countries (mostly African and west Asian) covering 16 million sq km are vulnerable to desert locust attack.
Locusts inflict damage by devouring leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, bark and growing plants, and also by breaking trees because of their weight when they settle down in masses. An adult desert locust can consume roughly its own weight in fresh food per day.
“One sq km size swarm contains about 40 million locusts, which eat the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people, 20 camels or 6 elephants,” said the ministry’s note.



[ad_2]

Source link