Afghanistan producing more opium: official

Agra, Nov 22 (IANS) Delegates taking part in a four-day conclave of heads of drug law enforcement agencies here voiced concern over the increase in the area under opium cultivation in Afghanistan.

This produce will eventually find markets through various conduits including the Maldives and Nepal, they said.

Indian Finance and Revenue Secretary R.S. Gujral said the development in Afghanistan had critical implications for 'the long term security of our region and the world'.

Latest information indicates a seven percent increase in opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan to 131,000 hectares.

'Though some progress in tackling the problem has been achieved, the medium term indicators of opium produced are not positive. The amount of opium produced has risen from 3,600 tonnes in 2010 (mainly owing to opium diseases that affected opium crop) to 5,800 tonnes in 2011,' Gujral said.

Afghan opium kills 100,000 people every year globally.

'The problem of drug addiction and diseases spread by intravenous injections such as HIV-AIDS in most participating countries indicates worrying trends that should provide an incentive for all governments to consider drug abuse as an integral part of public health policies and to deal with it at regional and international level,' Gujral said.

He was speaking at the second meeting of heads of national drug law enforcement agencies of the Asia and Pacific region.

Christina Albertin, resident representative the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, drew attention to Nepal saying it was becoming a conduit for drugs supply to China.

She highlighted the conditions in the Maldives, which she said was becoming a major drug consumer.

Gujral told IANS: 'Authorities in Afghanistan have been regularly briefed. We are coordinating action with them. More important is to cut the supply lines and prevent new conduits from opening.'