By Fakhar Alam
PESHAWAR, Jun 26 (APP):The locusts’ attacks, which threatened agricultural productivity and food security since the start of this year, have been restricted to five districts of Khyber Pakthunkhwa (KP) where 59,181.2 hectares infested area in 15 districts were cleared owing to the Government’s successful clearance operations against the flying insects.
Entered to Pakistan from Afghanistan through Waziristan-D I Khan corridor, the locusts’ swarms had engulfed 15 KP districts including Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Lakki Marwat, Bannu, Karak, Kohat, Kurrum, Hangu, Nowshera, Orakzai, Peshawar, Khyber and Bajaur, forcing the government to launch targeted operations to contain its movement following reports of substantial losses to agriculture crops including wheat, cotton, fruits, vegetables and young plantations.
As a result, over 59181.2 hectares infested areas in these 15 affected districts have been cleared by the Government besides accelerating operations in remaining five infested districts of Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Lakki Marwat, Karak and Kohat districts, said a report of Provincial Disasters Management Authority (PDMA) KP.
Targeted operations were conducted on the basis of detailed surveys started since March 9 last in these five infested districts where 42, 293 hectares area have been cleared till June 21, the report said.
A total of 284,600 hectares area was surveyed in D Ismail Khan out of which 14,199 hectares has been successfully operated. However, locusts swarms in a static position were still present on 295 hectares in D I Khan where operation is continuing.
The pests movement was restricted to 25 hectares in Tank district after 9,007 hectares area was operated out of 206,680 hectares surveyed area where swarms were seen in a static as well as moving positions.
In Lakki Marwat, infestation was contained to 144 hectares following 12,515 hectares were sprayed out of 516,000 hectares surveyed area.Likewise, flying insects’ movements were contained to 68 hectares in Karak after 3,077 hectares operated out of 272,880 hectares surveyed.
In Kohat, locusts were moving from one place to another after spray on 3,495 hectares following completion of survey on 371,132 hectares.
Anti locusts operations on 502 hectares continued in these five districts where conventional and non-conventional methods were being used to flush out the insects.
The districts so far cleared from locusts’ swarms include South Waziristan where 3,017 hectares area were operated out of surveyed area on 353,185 hectares, 5,045 hectares sprayed in North Waziristan where 461,900 hectares surveyed, 73 hectares operated out of 254,830 hectares surveyed in Bannu and 308,000 hectares surveyed out of which 1,500 hectares area were sprayed in Kurram.
Hangu, Nowshera and Orakzai districts were declared locusts free where 15 hectares area was sprayed out of total surveyed area of 125,931hactares, 524 hectares operated out of 438,735 hectares surveyed and 3483 hectares sprayed out of 354,920 hectares surveyed respectively.
Locusts swarms were also eradicated in Peshawar, Khyber and Bajaur districts where 12.2 hectares area operated after 316,625hactares surveyed area, 3,050 hectares sprayed after survey on 424,452 hectares and 60 hectares operated following 204,800 hectares area surveyed respectively.
The PDMA report revealed that 4,898,670 hectares area has been surveyed with assistance of 37 teams out of which 59,181.2 hectares area was successfully operated with the help of 43 teams in these 15 affected districts.
According to National Locust Control Centre report, anti-locust operations were carried out in 324,609.69 square kilometers approximately 2.69 million acres in 42 affected districts of Pakistan where more than 972 joint teams took part in the clearance operations till June 18.
Murad Ali, Director Agriculture Department said these controlled operations were highly successful in KP where conventional and non-conventional methods were used for control of infestations.
Locusts’ attacks were witnessed in 1999 and 2003, but the 2020 attack was the intense one in KP as it caused substantial losses to agricultural crops including wheat, cotton, fruits, vegetables and young plantations in southern districts of the province.
“Locusts preferred deserts and arid areas with water in surroundings for breeding in spring and summer seasons besides laying around 100 eggs one time having an average age of five months,” he said.
The Director Agriculture said, “Its flock travel under leadership of a queen at above 200 meter height covering 150 to 200 kilometers distance per day in search of food and water,” he said.
He further said locusts were the favorite food of migratory birds such as houbara bustard, cranes, ducks, snakes and increase of population of these species was vital to control the flying insects.To counter locusts’ threats in future, Rs14 billion would be spent by Federal Government and Rs12 billion by the provincial governments for treatment of affected agricultural areas, fulfillment of anti locusts operations’ expenses and other related programmes.
Anti-locusts national action plan has been prepared by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture Reforms and Research under which 500,000 hectares areas would be treated by KP, five million hectares by Punjab, 1.5 million hectares by Sindh and 500,000 by Balochistan.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank have pledged to finance $150 million and $200 million respectively for a mega project regarding controlling locusts’ attacks in Pakistan.
Mohibullah Khan, Provincial Minister for Agriculture and Livestock told APP that locusts attacks were an international issue and were closely linked with climate change.
“The locusts did not care about geographical borders and cooperation among neighboring countries
including Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Iran and China was imperative to win the fight against it.
Terming containment of the swarms in KP as a big achievement of PTI Government, the Minister said about 80 teams of the agriculture department were participating in the survey and clearance operations in the affected districts.
He maintained that a quick response force and modern equipment were being used to control its infestations in the remaining five districts of the province.