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Action plan launched to raise awareness of invasive weed.

Byline: Amin Ahmed

ISLAMABAD -- The Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) has launched a comprehensive action plan aimed at combating parthenium, a highly invasive weed species that is spreading in Pakistan.

CABI, which works to help farmers lose less of what they grow to plant health problems, unveiled its Weed Management Action Plan at a two-day workshop where experts shared texperiences information on the presence of parthenium and its impact on Pakistan.

Commonly known as gajar booti, parthenium's white flowers are often locally used in bouquets and other decorations. Most people are unaware of the health hazards posed by the weed, which was first reported in Gujrat in the 1980s and spread rapidly thereafter.

Its seeds spread through the air and can cause asthma, eye irritation, throat infections and eczema. It has also been known to cause allergies and digestive problems in livestock and other animal species as well as humans.

Experts at the workshop which was sponsored by the United Kingdom's Department of International Development emphasised that parthenium is harmful to people, crops, livestock and the environment and needs to be rooted out.

The CABI action plan consists of three stages: research, development and communisation. It will emphasise the strengthening of links between stakeholders to set priorities, list key activities and the institutions involved.

It will focus on developing a weed management decision guide in order to utilise best practices for early detection, prevention and control. Though the weed can be controlled by chemicals, they are toxic to the environment and for this reason the CABI has decided to assist farmers by provided them with an integrated and sustainable framework to address the issue.

These not only include potential control methods but also outreach programmes to ensure farmers, as well as the public, are aware of this destructive and dangerous weed.

Each year, invasive species approximately cost the global economy more than $1.4 trillion. The burden of invasive weeds is heavily borne by the most vulnerable and poorest. In Southeast Asia, every year, invasive species cost at least $33 billion, reducing the total GDP by 5pc.

It was explained that parthenium manipulates the ecology of fields, affects crop yields, and invades forests through its aggressive nature and allelopathy (hindering the development of different plants). It even causes serious threats to surrounding livestock and has the capability to cause rigorous allergies among humans who regularly interact with it.

Speaking at the workshop CABI Regional Director for Pakistan Babar Bajwa explained that parthenium is a deadly weed that destroys crops and is also harmful to public health. Along with farmers, it is essential that the general public be aware of the presence of this silent enemy living amongst them.

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Publication:Dawn (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Oct 9, 2018
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