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May 31, 2020

Locust attacks

Editorial

 
May 31, 2020

As this newspaper has highlighted many times earlier, locust attacks are increasingly becoming a nightmare for local farmers and people alike. Though the locust swarms have already entered Pakistan and are wreaking havoc in many districts, an even more severe locust attack is expected after a month. As if the impact of coronavirus was not devastating enough, now the locust problem has added to the woes of an ill-prepared National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). If not handled properly and in time, it may develop into a severe crisis that will destroy fields with much-needed food supplies both in India and Pakistan. If India and Pakistan fail to cooperate with each other and don’t make coordinated efforts, locusts will impact food security in this region. These short-horned grasshoppers have already invaded agricultural fields in Balochistan, Sindh, and South Punjab and have triggered a risk of famine in the region.

Desert locusts are not a new phenomenon in this region and have been invading for decades, but despite this usual occurrence, India, Iran, and Pakistan fail to pool their resources and technical expertise right at the outset when the swarms start developing. In this matter, India and Pakistan should be playing a leading role as they have the most resources in aircraft and preventive sprays. Perhaps, it is the perennial ill will between the two countries that prevents coordinated efforts other than just informing each other. Ideally, Pakistan should have reacted promptly, and India should have offered its aircraft to Pakistan to spray the fields and kill the locust. Whenever they came, locusts devoured large quantities of crops and this time is no different. In Pakistan they are reported to have already swarmed over 60 districts in all four provinces, starting from Balochistan. The speed of swarms is reported to be around 150 kilometres a day so it should not have been that difficult had we allocated enough resources and rented or requested more aircraft for spraying.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has also been warning Pakistan that nearly forty percent of the country’s fields will become breeding grounds for these insects if timely actions are not taken. The estimated financial loss to the country may be around 600 billion rupees. From here, the swarms are moving towards the Indian capital New Delhi, and western Indian states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan. Now, in addition to tackling the current locust crisis, the countries of this region need to reflect about the miseries of their citizens caused by such invasions and compounded by the inability of India, Iran, and Pakistan to join hands and act swiftly before another swarm hits the region in July.