Call for Southwest Asian bloc to deal with locusts

Updated 12 Mar 2020

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Officials from Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and India connected with locust experts at the FAO headquarters. — Dawn/File
Officials from Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and India connected with locust experts at the FAO headquarters. — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday proposed the creation of a high-level technical committee of Southwest Asian countries for effective management and control of desert locust.

Officials from Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and India connected with locust experts at the FAO headquarters in Rome via video conferencing and discussed strategies against locust infestation in their respective countries.

Addressing the conference, Minister for National Food Security and Research, Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar called for timely sharing of information among regional countries and formulation of a comprehensive operational plan for better management of locust attacks.

Bakhtyar emphasised the need for a Southwest Asian countries ‘window on locust watch’ which will have better understanding of the regional threat due to the pest. He also offered cooperation and support to Iran to tackle locust through bilateral mechanism.

The minister emphasised that there is a need for a coordinated effort at regional level to address the challenge, and said that Pakistan is politically committed and it has declared a national emergency to manage the threat of locust.

He briefed the officials of participating countries that 20 million hectares in Balochistan is under locust attack. Under the first phase of the operational plan, locust threat will be assessed and then managed accordingly.

Ground vehicles in the affected areas have been deployed and aerial spray was being conducted by three aircraft and four helicopters, he said adding that ‘E-locust’ devices are required for effective ground surveillance of the pest. Pakistan currently has thirty devices and asked FAO for the provision of 100 more such devices.

Secretary National Food Security, Dr Muhammad Hashim Popalzai said the ministry was playing a central role along with coordination and support of the Department of Plant Protection, national and provincial disaster management authorities as well as the armed forces.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2020