Pakistan approves $18.6 million to fence border with Iran

Pakistani soldiers wearing facemasks stand guard at the closed Pakistan-Iran border in Taftan on Feb. 25. (Files/AFP)
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Updated 29 April 2020

Pakistan approves $18.6 million to fence border with Iran

  • Pakistan sealed the border on Feb. 24 after Tehran confirmed coronavirus-related deaths

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on Monday approved 3 billion rupees ($18.6 million) in additional funds for the fencing of its border with Iran.
The funds were in the form of a supplementary technical grant.
Pakistan started fencing certain areas of the border in May last year, which Iran is against.
The Senate of Pakistan was informed about the move by the Frontier Constabulary of Balochistan on May 10, 2019.
The 900 km border begins at the Koh-i-Malik Salih mountain and ends at Gwadar Bay in the Gulf of Oman. It passes through a diverse landscape of mountain ridges, seasonal streams and rivers, and is notorious for human trafficking, smuggling and cross-border militancy.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has opened five crossings on the border to allow cargo trucks to cross over to Balochistan, Foreign Office spokeswoman, Aisha Farooqui, confirmed on Tuesday, adding that no individual movement was permitted.
“All five border points are open for cargo only. Pedestrians can come only through Taftan,” Farooqui told Arab News, referring to another crossing on the 900 km Pakistani-Iranian border in Balochistan province.
Pakistan sealed the border on Feb. 24 after Tehran confirmed coronavirus-related deaths.

HIGHLIGHT

The South Asian nation began installing barricades in May last year, despite resistance from Tehran.

At Taftan, however, Pakistanis who were in Iran for pilgrimage continued to cross into Balochistan as Iranian authorities stamped them out.
Other crossing points, namely Gabd, Mand, Katagar and Chedgi, remained closed until the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) decided to open them for transport of dates and other essential commodities.
According to a notification issued by the Ministry of Interior on April 21, the crossing points will remain open three days a week to facilitate trade. Three entry points — Gabd, Mand and Taftan — were reopened on April 21 for up to 50 trucks and 110 pickup vehicles a day.
From Monday, entry of 40 trucks and up to 100 pickup vehicles a day — also three times a week — is allowed at Katagar and Chedgi.
According to the ministry’s notification, the trucks can enter between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. The vehicles and cargo have to be disinfected after customs clearance. Protective measures are in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

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India faces worst locust crisis in decades

Updated 05 June 2020

India faces worst locust crisis in decades

  • Indo-Pak border a breeding ground for bug; worst attack in over 20 years, says expert

NEW DELHI: Suresh Kumar was sipping tea on the balcony of his Jaipur house on Friday when the sun suddenly disappeared. Thinking it was probably a black cloud that was filtering out the daylight, he looked up and saw swarms of locusts covering the sky of the capital city of the western Indian state of Rajasthan.

Within a few minutes, short-horned grasshoppers were everywhere —walls, balconies and nearby trees — as they forced people to take refuge in their houses.

“It was unprecedented,” Kumar, who lives in Jaipur’s walled city area, told Arab News on Thursday. “Never before have I witnessed such a scene. Suddenly millions of aliens invaded our locality. Some residents of the neighborhood tried to bang some steel plates to shoo them off, but the jarring sound did not make much of an impact. However, the swarms left the area within an hour or so.”

More than a thousand kilometers away, in the Balaghat district of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, farmer Dev Singh had a similar experience, although the bugs not only occupied his farmhouse, they destroyed the budding leaves of different kinds of pulses which he had sown in his field.

“Only a few weeks ago I harvested the wheat crop,” he told Arab News. “In a way, I’m lucky that the locusts have come now … otherwise the damage would have been much greater,” but he added that “with the pulse plant damaged in good measure, the yield will not be great this year.”

His area has been cleared of the locusts after the intervention of local authorities, which sprayed chemicals to kill the bugs and blared out sirens to shoo them off.

India is already grappling with an alarming surge of coronavirus cases and struggling to cope with the devastation caused by a recent cyclone. The country is also dealing with rising unemployment figures after more than 100 million people went jobless due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is facing security issues, too, in the form of a seething border dispute with China. The locust invasion has added to beleaguered India’s laundry list of woes.

Scientists said it was a serious crisis.

“This is the worst locust attack in more than two decades,” Dr. K. L. Gurjar, of the Faridabad-based Locust Warning Organization, told Arab News. “Compared to the past, these locusts are younger and have traveled a longer distance. This should be a cause of concern. The states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh will be badly impacted. We are controlling and containing the situation on a daily basis.”

According to media reports, around 50,000 hectares of farmland have been destroyed by desert locusts in the two states during the last four weeks.

“The problem will persist until the invasion of swarms continues from across the border in Pakistan and Iran. The Indo-Pak border has become the breeding ground for the bug,” Gurjar added.

But he remained hopeful that the country would get rid of the menace through its measures, despite the present danger.

“There is a danger of locusts remaining alive for a longer period, though we are hopeful to ultimately sort them out.”

The Jawaharlal Nehru Agriculture University (JNAU) of Jabalpur has also been monitoring the situation in Madhya Pradesh, noting that locusts damage the crop completely wherever they go.

“Desert locusts stay immobile throughout the night and their movement begins again in the morning and they fly along the direction of the wind,” JNAU’s Dr. Om Gupta told Arab News. “Wherever they find shelter, they damage the crops in totality. In some areas, locusts have created havoc.”

She added that spray was generally used in the evening or early morning to kill the bugs. “They breed very fast and we focus on killing their eggs. What we are dealing with is nothing short of a catastrophe, and we are not going to get respite from this anytime soon.”