Aerial spray to eliminate locusts in Tharparkar begins

Updated 06 Aug 2020

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ABout 400 hectares cleared on first day, says ministry of food security. — Dawn/File
ABout 400 hectares cleared on first day, says ministry of food security. — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of National Food Security and Research has announced that a Beaver aircraft has been deployed in Tharparkar for aerial spray to control locusts.

The ministry said 400 hectares were cleared from locusts in Tharparkar on Wednesday. The aircraft will control locust in Thar on a daily basis. With the start of aerial spray, farmers in Tharparkar and adjoining areas have felt a sigh of relief, it said.

Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has warned of substantial increase in the number of locusts in Pakistan during August with more hatching and band formation leading to a second generation of egg-laying to start from early September onwards.

According to the latest edition of Desert Locust Watch published by FAO, the number of locusts will increase in Tharparkar, Nara and Cholistan, whereas the first-generation hatching will continue into early August, causing hopper bands to form until about mid-September.

The FAO has still kept Pakistan at the ‘threat’ level which requires survey and control operations.

400 hectares cleared on first day, says ministry of food security

The report says that the risk of swarms arriving from Horn of Africa will decline by mid-August. Adult groups may form in the Lasbela area that could move to Tharparkar.

During July, immature adult groups and swarms moved from spring breeding areas to summer breeding areas in Cholistan and Tharparkar. Consequently, only low numbers of immature adults and a few groups remained in Balochistan near Panjgur, Turbat and Khuzdar, and an immature swarm was seen near Quetta. Low numbers of locusts were also present in the Lasbela Valley.

Numerous first-generation hopper groups and bands were formed in Tharparkar near Nagarparkar and the Indian border in the extreme southeast of Sindh from earlier laying. Control operations treated 33,599 hectares of which 400 hectares were by aerial spray.

The report says some of the swarms that continued to move towards east across northern Somalia could still reach India and Pakistan in early August. In southwest, the situation has nearly returned to normal in Iran but remains serious along the Indo-Pakistan border where monsoon breeding commenced by spring-bred swarms, including those returning from northern India, and substantially hatching and band formation are expected this month.

The World Bank, which approved $200 million this week for locust control operation, says Pakistan cannot afford to lose time in dealing with the locust emergency. Resources must be pooled together for timely control operations, and coordination is needed to be strengthened in line with the national action plan, while additional financial resources should be mobilised from international and community levels and development donors.

The newest generations of locusts are emerging at the same time new crops are emerging, and experts fear that up to 100 per cent of new crops could be lost. Even a small, one-square-kilometre locust swarm can consume the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people, a World Bank document says.

According to FAO estimate, in the worst-case scenario, the agriculture loss could be $16 billion, including both Rabi and Kharif crops. Without urgent and effective actions to control the locust spread, situation of food security and prospect of agriculture development will only be deteriorated. The desert locust spread in Pakistan is also an aftermath of the favourable conditions resulting from the continuously changing climatic conditions.

Pakistan is located at a crossroads for migration of desert locusts in South Asia. Therefore, effectively controlling the locust crisis is not only crucial for Pakistan itself, but also is critical for the entire Southwest Asia region, the World Bank document emphasised.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2020