ISLAMABAD: Apart from coronavirus pandemic, two more threats — locust attack and possible flooding — are looming over Pakistan and the authorities have been working on measures to counter all of them, said National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lt Gen Mohammad Afzal on Tuesday.
Addressing a press conference, the NDMA chief said that operations against locusts had already been under way while the NDMA was also working to devise a comprehensive plan to deal with possible flooding this year.
Lt Gen Afzal said the plan would be shared with relevant authorities and public by the second week of June.
“We will try our best to utilise all the resources available in the country to tackle these threats and the whole nation will counter them effectively,” he added.
He said locust attack was a serious issue and this matter should not be politicised. “I appeal to all the leaderships of religious, political and social groups to join hands and concentrate to get rid of them (locusts) instead of point-scoring,” he said.
The NDMA chairman explained that the current locust attack was not in the category of swarms, but they were in groups. They were locally bred and indigenous.
He said that due to extensive cold and snowfall in Balochistan areas in January and February, the locusts did not move back to Iran and Africa but stayed in Pakistan and laid their eggs. “The current generation of locusts active in Southern Punjab are local but it was present in other provinces as well,” he highlighted.
The operation had been launched with the help of 1,500 teams of the NDMA along with the provincial disaster management authorities of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan over two weeks back, he said.
“These teams have not slept for one night for the last 15 days because operations against locusts [are conducted] at night mainly just before sunrise,” he said.
Currently massive operations were under way in Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Bahawalpur, some areas of Faisalabad, Okara, Bakkhar and Layyah, the NDMA chairman said.
All requirements to kill and ward off locusts have been fulfilled as the Chinese government gifted 375,000 litres of pesticides to Pakistan, the Japanese gift of 50,000 litres would arrive here next week, while the NDMA also procured 175,000 litres and 100,000 litres of pesticides. Besides, nine aircraft — including five helicopters from army — were available for aerial spray, he said, adding that the NDMA was also in the process of procuring six more aircraft that he described as air-tractors. Subsequently, he added, the total number aerial-spray vehicles would rise to 15.
The NDMA chairman was also in talks with the Military Operations (MO) Directorate to prepare for heavy operations against locusts in uninhabited areas.
As the first threat from other parts of the world would be faced in June when locusts would start arriving from Iran and Oman, army teams would soon be deployed in D.G. Khan, D.I. Khan and on the Iranian border to kill locusts coming from there. “Those which arrive from the west will be dealt with at the Solemain lower mountains, but the serious offensive to eradicate the locusts will be in Cholistan and Thar deserts, to stop them from reaching the agricultural heartlands of the country,” Lt Gen Afzal said.
He said the army had dedicated 5,000 personnel in the anti-locust operation and 1,500 of them had been deployed in different provinces.
The NDMA chairman said the plant protection departments in the provincial departments had been rendered non-functional due to various reasons. One of the reasons was that Pakistan was facing locust attack after around 29 years, he said, adding that almost all the plant protection departments were devoid of entomologists. However, he said, the process to hire those experts on a one-year contract basis had been initiated.
Among the 11 locust-prone districts in Balochistan, 14 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, eight in Sindh and 13 in Punjab, 218,315km area has been surveyed while around 161,724 square kilometres in all the four provinces had yet to be surveyed, he added.
Briefing the media about possible threats of flooding this year, Lt Gen Afzal said it was expected as higher than normal rainfall during and after the winter and spring resulted in ample availability of water in reservoirs.
“Some areas received more than 29 per cent snowfall and the Gilgit-Baltistan region received more than 33.5 per cent snowfall this winter,” he said, adding that the Met Office had been requested to provide a long-term weather forecast report. As the report was expected to be finalised by next week, he said, the NDMA would devise its flood plan based on that report and it would be shared with the provinces, and public by June 12.
Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2020