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November 12, 2019

Karachi hit by swarms of locusts


November 12, 2019

After interior Sindh and Punjab, swarms of locusts attacked Karachi and its adjoining areas on Monday. The large insects are known as Tiddi Dal in Pakistan.

The swarms of locusts are believed to have made their way to the metropolitan city after a span almost 57 years due to favourable weather in the region during their breeding season of August.

In a video statement released by the provincial government, Sindh Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahoo said the locusts were headed to Balochistan after spending the night in Karachi. Muhammad Tariq Khan, the technical director of the Ministry of National Food Security & Research’s Plant Protection Department, said locusts are found in desert areas. He said they are monitoring the situation, and clarified that the insects are not usually harmful.

In the meantime, the provincial government directed the relevant officials to spray on crops in District Malir. The Quaid-e-Azam Trophy fixture between Sindh and Northern was also interrupted briefly when a locust swarm showed up while the Northern were batting.

The swarm was large enough that the players had to stop playing and cover their eyes and ears in a bid to avoid contact with the insects. “These locusts are in a migratory position,” said Rahoo, adding that they would stay in Karachi for a night and will head towards Balochistan in the wee hours of Tuesday. Usually, he said, they start flying towards their destination when the sun rises completely.

On Sunday, he said, locusts were reported in Malir but they could not be traced there on Monday, as they made their way to different areas of the city, such as Bahadurabad, Shah Faisal, Nazimabad and Gulshan-e-Iqbal. In a span of two to three days, he said, they will be out of Karachi.

Replying to a question as to if they were ever spotted in Karachi before, he said they are usually seen in desert areas. “The entire coastal belt [of Sindh and Balochistan] is its passage of migration,” he said, adding that they have not heard of any damages to crops in Karachi and the surrounding areas.

Their teams, according to him, are already in the field and are equipped with sprays. Meanwhile, the federal government’s plant protection department, which he shared is mandated to control locusts by doing aerial spray and field visits, is also on standby.

Rahoo said the director general of the plant protection department had visited Karachi and held a meeting with the officials of the Sindh Agriculture Department.

“We asked him to conduct aerial spray in Nawabshah’s desert area,” he said, adding that in Mithi, Badin district, the agriculture department’s teams are spraying the fields to get rid of locusts. According to Rahoo, the people of Karachi can cook and eat locusts. “They aren’t harmful for citizens at all,” he said. Horticulturist Tofiq Pasha also shared that people can fry or have locusts as a barbecue item. They can also have it in Karhai or biryani.

Meanwhile, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s Parks Director General Afaq Mirza told The News that grasshoppers generally devour vegetables grown in fields, and all their parks are completely safe from their attack.

However, Pasha shared that locusts can devour grass and all the leaves of a tree if they are in huge numbers. The swarm that has attacked the city, he said, is not actually settling here, but they are in “flying mode”. He recalled that the last time they were spotted in Karachi was in 1961 or 1962.

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