UN agency warns of possible locust infestation in India and Pakistan
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that swarms of desert locusts from East Africa are expected to cross the Indian Ocean and could reach India and Pakistan within days, creating a potentially dangerous situation for a region already suffering from the impact of last week’s deadly storms.
Two recent tropical cyclones have caused heavy rainfall in Pakistan and western India that will create “unusually favourable breeding conditions for locusts” until October along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border and, for the first time in many years, in coastal areas of western Pakistan, FAO said in a press release.
Both Governments are mobilizing field teams, equipment and resources in the Indian States of Rajasthan and Gujarat, as well as in adjacent areas of Cholistan and Tharparkar deserts in Pakistan.
“Locusts can stay in the air for long periods of time,” said FAO locust expert Keith Cressman, adding that desert locusts usually fly with the wind and can travel up to 150 kilometres a day.
Crossing the Indian Ocean on monsoon winds is part of the natural migration cycle of desert locusts and has already occurred in the past.
Meanwhile, FAO said the migratory grasshoppers have infested large areas of Yemen, which is facing the worst locust outbreak in nearly 15 years.
The agency is organizing an emergency $5 million aerial control campaign in Yemen that will start later this month and is expected to last 30 days.
The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the Governments of Japan and Yemen are providing the funds, which will support two helicopters, pesticide, equipment, vehicles, and locust control and logistics experts.
If the campaign is not successful, there is a risk of numerous swarms forming and invading countries along both sides of the Red Sea during the autumn, FAO warned.