India combats locust attack

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After staving off Cyclone Amphan and continuing its fight against the Coronavirus, India will now have to deal with an invasion by desert locusts.

The aggressive, short-horned swarms have hit huge swathes of India and Pakistan in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, devouring more than two dozen districts covering more than 50,000 hectares of desert areas of western India, with Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are the worst affected states.

In neighbouring Pakistan, authorities declared a nationwide emergency in February, saying locust numbers were the worst in more than two decades. Local reports say that farmers are fighting the “worst locust plague in nearly three decades” and the swarms were decimating crops and sending prices of food soaring.

Some 38% of Pakistan’s area spread over the provinces of Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab are “breeding grounds” for locusts, according to a report by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

“The situation is much more serious this year not only in Afghanistan, India, Iran and Pakistan but in all the frontline countries in Africa, and the Arabian peninsula,” Muhammad Tariq Khan, director of Pakistan’s Department of Plant Protection, said.

Relations between the two hostile nuclear-armed neighbours have been frozen for years. But this hasn’t come in the way of India and Pakistan working closely to fight these migratory insects, say officials.

There have been some nine Skype meetings between the two sides since April, which plant-protection officials from Afghanistan and Iran have also joined, a senior Indian official said.

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