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Locust attack looms large over India, Pak

July 05, 2007 11:20 IST

A locust warning issued by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations Organisation has asked India and Pakistan to take immediate steps to safeguard their crops.

Two swarms of desert locusts are heading towards the Indian sub-continent -- one from Somalia and the other from Oman and Yemen.

The swarms are likely to reach the continent in two or three days. Moreover, the FAO will also launch aerial operations during this month. The warning says that India and Pakistan should be on a high alert and take the necessary precautions to ensure that there is an intensive monitoring of the summer breeding areas. Meanwhile, locusts have been sighted in the Kutch region of Gujarat.

The FAO is also preparing itself to launch aerial operations.

The warning note said, "In Yemen, survey teams are finding more hopper and adult infestations in the remote interior between Al Abr and Thamud. Egg-laying, hatching and band formation are in progress. The FAO, in collaboration with the World Food Programme, is mounting aerial operations that will commence in mid-July. The operations are being financed by the UN Emergency Fund, Japanese assistance and resources from the Government of Yemen. Swarms were also reported in northwest Somalia near Hargeisa in the past week. The current situation is being clarified."

Following the FAO's locust alert for the Indian sub-continent all the respective authorities in the country are taking immediate steps towards this threat.

Avinash Kumar, additional chief secretary of the Agricultural and Cooperation Department of Gujarat, said, "The FAO has issued a locust warning to the Indian sub-continent. The western region has been put on a high alert in India following the alert. The alert was sounded on June 27 and India received the communiqué on June 26. We were alerted by the Centre on the June 30. According to the alert, two swarms of locusts are heading towards the Indian sub-continent."

The warning says that locusts from Somalia, Yemen and Oman are likely to reach the western region of the sub-continent within 7 to 10 days. Somalian locusts have not yet reached the continent, but there is fear that locusts from Yemen and Oman have already entered the western region. Few early sightings were made near Lakhpat in the Kutch region two days ago, said Kumar.

The FAO locust warning said, "Swarms have been seen in north-eastern Somalia near Bosasso between June 23 and 25. The prevailing winds are from the southwest -- the same winds that are associated with the southern Asian monsoon. If these are desert locust swarms, estimates from a trajectory model suggest that the swarms could move with the monsoon winds in a north-easterly direction from northeast Somalia across the Indian Ocean to Bhuj in India."

Soumitra Trivedi in Ahmedabad
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