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Islamabad presses Sindh to contain desert locust upsurge

By Our Correspondent
December 03, 2019

KARACHI: Government on Monday advised Sindh administration to expedite desert locust control activities as invasion of migrating flies in the recent past poses risks of crop losses to growers and food security.

Minister for National Food Security and Research Khurso Bakhtiar advised the federal Plant Protection Department (DPP) and Sindh agriculture department to further invigorate the desert locust control activities by deploying three aircraft in the province to safeguard the growers and the country from economic and food security related losses.

Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah was briefed about the existing desert locust upsurge during a meeting. Subsequently, provincial chief minister and food security minister discussed the locust issue in detail and assured the federal government full cooperation in locust control. The federal minister also discussed the locust issue with Governor Sindh.

Sindh chief minister promised to contribute Rs10 million for procurement of pesticides and aviation fuel to overcome the existing locust emergency situation.

Swarm of locusts was first reported in Balochistan nine months ago. Locust, known as Tiddi Dal in local language, poses threat to crops as they generally devour vegetables grown in fields.

DPP, in collaboration with Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, provincial agricultural departments, district administration, and associations are conducting desert locust surveillance and control activities in desert areas of Balochistan, Tharparkar, Nara and Cholistan since the locust entry from Iran in March 2019 via coastal areas of Balochistan.

The control teams have surveyed around 659,320 hectares so far and controlled an area of 161,625 hectares out of which 6,200 hectares have been treated through spraying 121,565 litres of pesticides.

FAO warned that situation remains serious in Indo-Pakistan border. “Control operations continue against groups of hoppers and adults, bands and swarms along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border,” the FAO said in a report last week. “In Pakistan, 12,000 hectares were treated on 1–10 November in Cholistan, Nara and Tharparkar deserts of which 400 hectares were by air. Vegetation remains green in most places due to a late-ending monsoon.”

Fears were triggered among growers following the locust invasion that already-shrinking cotton production would be under a corrosive threat. However, there has no major incident of cotton loss been reported due to flies.

FAO said some groups and swarms have started to leave the summer breeding areas along the Indo-Pakistan border. “On 10 November, a swarm flew over Karachi, moving from east to west.” An official said locusts were observed in suburbs of Karachi such as Gadap Town after which they apparently left towards Balochistan.

The instant desert locust activity observed in Sindh is in fact migration from summer-monsoon breeding zone towards coastal areas of Balochistan, which is the winter-spring breeding zone. Desert locust flies during daytime and settle during night. An official statement said such migrations are usually not in search of food. The DPP is closely monitoring the situation, the statement added.