India should remain on “high alert” over the locust threat for the next four weeks, advises FAO (the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation). Meanwhile, the Indian government has stepped up efforts and is using drones and Bell helicopters for control of the plague.
In its latest update, the FAO said that spring-bred locust swarms that migrated to Indo-Pakistan border and travelled east to northern states, are expected to return to Rajasthan with the start of monsoon. These locust swarms will join other swarms still arriving from Iran and Pakistan, which is expected to be supplemented by swarms from the Horn of Africa in about mid-July, reports PTI.
The FAO had organized a virtual meeting of Ministers of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran on March 11, to effectively respond to the desert locust spring breeding and a potential threat of swarm invasion. The objective of the meeting was to review the current Desert Locust situation; discuss its recurrent impact on these countries; evaluate existing capacities; and discuss contingency plans for anticipatory emergency actions.
Representing India at the meeting were Kailash Chaudhary, Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MoA&FW); Sanjay Agarwal, Secretary, Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare, MoA&FW; Rajesh Verma, Principal Secretary Agriculture, MoA&FW and Atish Chandra, Joint Secretary, Plant Protection, MoA&FW. Suresh Kumar, Director, Ministry of External Affairs; Rajesh Malik, Plant Protection Advisor; J.P. Singh, Joint Director, Desert Locust Division; and K.L. Gurjar, Deputy Director, Desert Locust Division from the Department of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage (DPPQS), Faridabad also attended the meeting along with the FAO India team.
There is an imminent threat of swarms invading the summer breeding areas along both sides of Indo-Pakistan border, from the spring breeding areas within the region as well as from the Horn of Africa upto July 2020. Chandra, Joint Secretary Plant Protection, Mo&AFW, lauded the crucial role that the State Agriculture Extension Departments have played in treating the target areas, and the prompt support from pesticide companies in providing an uninterrupted supply of pesticides, as part of their CSR initiatives. In addition, he outlined the substantive actions being taken in preparing for the Locust invasion threat in 2020, including the increase in the number of teams and equipment such as sprayers, vehicles and aircraft.
India is willing to offer pesticides and resources to Iran and requested FAO to facilitate the bilateral cooperation between the countries. As an outcome of the meeting, a Technical and Operational Coordination (TOC) team has been established within SWAC to enhance coordination between the four countries and FAO. The key objective of this team would be to facilitate anticipatory actions for the upcoming invasion threat. It would also technically support more effective and synchronized planning and implementation of the surveys required as also the emergency control operations at all levels within each country and the border areas.
The TOC team meets virtually on a weekly basis to assess the situation on the ground. FAO has also launched the Locust Hub; a dashboard that allows online access to updated Desert Locust survey and control data on a near real-time basis, at the regional, national and sub-national levels.