Topic : Alien species
Topic in Syllabus: Science & Technology
- In the past 15 years, India has faced at least 10 major invasive pest and weed attacks.
- When pests, weeds, viruses and bacteria invade, they can wipe out food crops, alter the ecology, deplete water levels and cause diseases.
- The most recent was the fall armyworm that destroyed almost the entire maize crop in the country in 2018.
- India had to import maize in 2019 due to the damage caused by the pest in 2018.
- It is difficult to establish how pests and weeds are entering India.
- What’s inexplicable is that there is no institutional mechanism to even probe these invasions.
- The Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (MAFW), which is responsible for the control of invasive pests and weeds, has not investigated any invasions till date.
- Invasive pests and weeds can enter a country by flying over the border or by simply growing gratuitously. In such cases, checking their entry is difficult.
- But when they land up at airports and dockyards in cargos of imported grain or with items carried by tourists, the authorities should be able to weed them out.
- For this reason countries have animal, plant and health quarantine facilities at all transborder entry points.
- India, however, seems to have let its guard down of late, especially with regards to agricultural products, which form the bulk of its imports.
- When an agricultural product arrives, customs officials check if it has a phytosanitary certificate or not.
- This certificate, showing that the product is without any pest or weed infestation, is issued by the government of the exporting country.
- If the product is certified, it is cleared by Quarantine system after a sample test.
- If the product has not been given a phytosanitary certificate, the foreign government is obliged to inform India, in which case Quarantine system fumigates the product with methyl bromide and issues a phytosanitary certificate.
- The fumigation is for two to 48 hours and depends upon the volume and quality of the product, and the country of origin. The company is charged for the fumigation.
Check on agri imports
- Import of agricultural products is governed by the Destructive Insects and Pests Act, 1914.
- The country has 108 plant quarantine centres located at major airports, seaports and transborder railway stations.
- The check posts at these quarantine centres are under the control of the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBITC), which works in close coordination with DPPQS.
- There should be a war room-like cell to catalogue, monitor and investigate the influx of exotic pests and weeds.
- In fact, India’s quarantine system needs an overhaul.
- Nepal, for instance, stopped the entry of agriculture products from India without a phytosanitary certificate in June after the outbreak of acute encephalitis syndrome in Bihar earlier this year.
- With increasing global trade and movement, countries worldwide are becoming serious about alien pests and microbes.
- At a time when bioterrorism is a global reality, it is imperative that we get our quarantine system in order.
What do invasive species do when in a new area?
a. Die because they cannot survive
b. Breed with existing species
c. Get in balance with the existing food chains
d. “take over” the area and edge out the native species