CHITRAL: The fungal disease has infected thousands of apricot trees in lower parts of Chitral, damaging the fruit in its early stage.

Riaz Ahmed, a farmer from Chitral town, told Dawn that the disease had affected hundreds of trees. He said the leaves had turned read with holes in them. He said the disease had attacked the trees a month ago and was spreading fast from one tree to another.

The grower said the fungus was widespread this year unlike the previous years when it affected a few fruit trees. He said the solitary apricot trees were less affected compared to those in close proximity with each other.

The orchard owners were appalled by the situation as they derived a large source of their sustenance from selling the fruit in the market.

He said apricot was a popular fruit in Chitral and there was hardly any household where the tree was not grown. He said the fruit was also stored by dehydrating it for consumption in winter. He said the dried apricot (locally called chamber) was marketed in large quantity.

When contacted, agriculture department deputy director Rafique Ahmed said the disease was caused by high rate of humidity in the area for a longer period of time due to frequent rainfall. He said persistent rains over the last many months had provided congenial environment for the fungus to develop.

He asked the farmers to spray the unaffected trees with anti-fungus medicines, which were available with the agriculture department, so that spores from one tree to another could be contained as the disease had a high rate of transmission. TIGER FORCE LAUNCHED: A volunteers’ force was launched here on Friday to help reach out to the people hit by the lockdown enforced in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.

TIGER FORCE LAUNCHED: The Chitral chapter of Coronavirus Relief Task Force (Tiger Force) comprising 800 volunteers was raised at a function chaired by chief minister’s special assistant Wazirzada.

Addressing the volunteers, he asked the volunteers to make their services available to each and every deserving person without any discrimination. He urged them to strictly follow the standard operating procedures and discharge their duties with devotion.

Reading out the SOPs for the volunteers’ force, Lower Chitral deputy commissioner Naveed Ahmed said the volunteers would perform non-technical functions near the quarantine centres with the main focus on ensuring social distancing.

He said the volunteers would also ensure speedy delivery of ration to the deserving people, and help them get assistance under the PM’s Kafalat Ehsaas programme.

Mr Ahmed warned that any member of the tiger force could be expelled if he violated the SOPs by taking arbitrary actions.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2020

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