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Locust species, Minister for Agriculture fears ‘drought-like situation in province

TANDO MOHAMMAD KHAN: Ismail Rahoo، Minister for Agriculture, had already warned that without immediate aerial spraying, the province might fall prey to a ‘drought-like scenario’ and blamed that federal government’s agency Plant Protection Department (PPD) is not cooperating with the provincial government in this regard. He said that there is dire need for aerial spray to destroy the locust eggs which are spreading very fast around 2.5 million acres in the desert regions.

Currently six districts of Sindh have reported the spread of locust species of short-horned grasshoppers which are threatening many agricultural crops in the province.

The reports, photographs and videos of locusts flying and resting around agricultural fields emerged on social media from Dadu, Matiari, Jamshoro, Nawabshah, Naushehro Feroze, Thar and Sanghar districts. “Locusts can destroy the agricultural belt of Sindh if they entered Mirpurkhas, Tando Allahyar, Matiari, Tando Mohammad Khan, Sujawal, Badi, Thatta and Hyderabad on the left bank of Indus River,” warned Sindh Chamber of Agriculture General Secretary Nabi Bux Sathio.

He said, Sindh Agriculture Minister appeal to the federal government for aerial spray is good initiative, along with that Sindh government should also start self-sustaining efforts for control that prolong issue since its inception.

He told that during winter season the locusts was in rest and regeneration process, giving eggs so it was most appropriate time to spray by the government, now its late because locusts are flying and migrating from one place to other place and damaging the crops in fields.

He voiced concern that if the authorities failed to control the insects, the agriculture sector would suffer huge financial losses of billions of rupees. “Locust attacks are increasing each passing day,” he said and urged the government to carry out aerial and ground operations to kill the insects, which is already late.

Leader of Sindh Abadgar Board Pir Asadullah Jan Sirhindi asked the Ministry of National Food Security and Research’s Department of Plant Protection (DPP) was unlikely to be successful in tackling locusts in Sindh as it had already failed to control the insects in plain areas of Balochistan.

“Monsoon season is round the corner in which locusts multiply faster, hence an earlier aerial spray is need in all over province, he said. He cautioned that locusts might cause extensive damage as they had now entered areas heavily cultivated with vegetables.
Climatically, these species require sandy area with moisture where they can feed and breed. These insects prefer to live in desert areas but if they fail to find a suitable environment, they turn towards crops. Last epidemics of locusts were witnessed in 1993 and 1997 in Pakistan. There were other small-scale attacks as well but owing to well-coordinated efforts the country was able to thwart the threat without suffering any significant damage.

The technical director highlighted that the department was conducting ground operations through defender jeeps and was avoiding aerial operation because the spray could have harmful side-effects on the humans and livestock if released in the air. “We will conduct aerial operation if locusts attack on a massive scale,” he said.

Sindh’s lower region has vast orchards of banana, mangoes, dates etc and fields of cotton and sugarcane. Agriculture officials fear if the attack was not controlled it would destroy cotton crop and damage banana and sugarcane crops.

PTI’s provincial leader Syed Zulfiqar Ali Shah, also showed his concern on locust and assured the Sindh Abadgar Board member that he will raise the issue with Prime Minister Imran Khan and Governor Sindh for resolving this issue on priority basis.

The farmers and growers are also worried as large hike of prime land remained barren for last three decades due to acute shortage of water in barrage areas and equally orphaned spate irrigation in Thatta, Badin, Tando Mohammad Khan, Sujawal and others parts of lower sindh.

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