The National Locust Control Centre (NLCC) on Monday declared Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa free from locust. According to a statement released by the NLCC spokesperson, the locust is now only present in Balochistan.
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The statement further said that an anti-locust survey and control operation was in progress and at least 201441 hectares area was surveyed in a day. During the last 24 hours, about 280 hectares of area in Lasbella was sprayed.
The control operation had been completed on 1,125,777 hectares of land across the affected areas in the country during the last six months, reads the press release by NLCC.
It is pertinent to mention here that Prime Minister Imran Khan, on July 10, granted approval to Phase-II of the National Action Plan for Locust Control to eradicate the menace of ravenous pests posing risk to the country’s food security.
“Pakistan suffered its worst locust attack”
A few months ago, GVS reported that the threat of a locust flare-up comes as summer crops of cotton, sugar cane, and rice are being sown in Pakistan, while fruit and vegetables are ready to be harvested.
The latest FAO situation report warns that desert locust breeding is ongoing across 38% of land area in Pakistan, with the entire country under threat of an invasion if the pest is not contained. Pakistan suffered its worst locust attack in nearly three decades in 2019, for which the country was ill-prepared at the time.
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China, meanwhile, is also assisting Pakistan in its locust efforts. The Chinese Embassy in Islamabad said in a statement that Beijing has already sent teams of agricultural experts to advise Pakistani farmers, donated 300 tons of malathion, and 50 air-powered high-efficiency remote sprayers to combat the insects.
India’s proposed trilateral response
As Pakistan is almost free from locust, it confirmed that India proposed a trilateral response in partnership with Iran to counter the worst locust attack. “We have received a proposal from India,” Pakistan’s then Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aisha Farooqui told VOA.
“We believe that a well-coordinated response is critical to deal with the challenge posed by desert locusts,” she stressed. She would not say what Islamabad’s possible response to the Indian proposal would be.
Farooqui, however, noted that Pakistan was “working closely” with regional countries, including India and global partners, particularly the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to address the looming locust threat.
The ongoing wider regional cooperation is happening under FAO’s Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in Southwest Asia (SWAC), established in 1964 with Afghanistan, India, Iran, and Pakistan as its members.
Under the proposed trilateral response, New Delhi has reportedly suggested to Islamabad that both countries “coordinate locust control operations along the border and that India can facilitate the supply of malathion, a pesticide, to Pakistan.”
Keith Cressman, FAO’s senior locust forecasting officer, told reporters that India and Pakistan face an “imminent threat of several waves of spring-bred swarms” from southwest Pakistan and southern Iran during May and June.
Earlier, BR Kadwa, deputy director of the agriculture department of India, said that “swarms of locusts are entering Rajasthan from adjoining areas in Pak every 2-3 days for a month. Pakistan has become the new breeding ground of the locusts and hence we are seeing the repeated attacks of locusts in the state. Four swarms have entered Jaipur recently”.
Notably, according to a report in Times of India, locust swarms have reached as far as Vidarbha in Maharashtra and caused crop damage. This, according to the report, has not happened since 1974.