ISLAMABAD-Pakistan has currently 30 E-Locust devices, which are required for effective ground surveillance of the pest, and asked Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for provision of 100 more devices to fight the challenge effectively.

“E-Locust devices are required for effective ground surveillance of the pest,” Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Khusro Bakhtyar said while addressing a high level ministerial meeting on Desert Locust threat to South-West Asian countries.

A High Level Ministerial Meeting on Desert Locust threat to South-West Asian countries was held here at FAO office through video conference. Ministers and senior officials from concerned departments of India, Iran, Afghanistan & FAO Headquarters representatives along with officers from Ministries of National Food Security & Foreign Affairs were present in the meeting.

During the video conference, each country briefed the participants about the ongoing operational activities being carried out in their respective areas against locust infestation.

Speaking on the occasion, Khusro Bakhtyar proposed to constitute a High Level Technical Committee comprising senior officers from affected South-West Asian countries for effective management and control of locust. He underlined that a coordinated effort at regional level is required to address this challenge. He informed the participants that Pakistan is politically committed & it has declared a national emergency to manage the locust threat. He apprised that 20 million hectares in Balochistan are locust prone, adding that during stage one of the operation the locust threat will be assessed and then managed accordingly.

The minister said that ground vehicles in the affected areas have been deployed, aerial spray is being conducted by 3 planes & 4 helicopters. He said that E-Locust devices are required for effective ground surveillance of the pest, adding that Pakistan currently has 30 devices. The minister called for timely sharing of information among regional countries and formulation of a comprehensive operational plan for better management and control of locust. He emphasized the need to create a South West Asian countries’ window on Locust Watch to have better understanding of the regional threat of the pest. He also offered cooperation and support to Iran to tackle locust through bilateral mechanism.

Secretary Food Security said that the Ministry is playing the central role and DPP, NDMA, PDMAs and provincial governments are actively involved in control and surveillance of locust. He stated that the armed forces are also actively participating in the national action plan against locust. Secretary informed that 21 districts in Pakistan are affected by locust out of which 13 are severely affected. He said that a total of 173 surveillance and control teams are working on the ground.

Representatives of FAO appreciated Pakistan’s timely efforts to combat locust swarms and urged other affected countries to emulate Islamabad in this respect. They emphasized the need to synergize regional efforts to address this challenge. They called upon every affected country to play its role to control this migratory pest. It was decided to convene a meeting on locust threat on weekly basis.