Locusts could cause drought-like scenario in Sindh, warns Rahoo

Agri minister warns Centre of dire consequences if immediate action not taken to fight the plague


​ Our Correspondent April 14, 2020
PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

HYDERABAD: Accusing the federal government of failing to assist Sindh in eradicating the locust plague, Sindh Agriculture Minister Muhammad Ismail Rahoo warned that without immediate aerial spraying, the province might fall prey to a 'drought-like scenario.'

Addressing a press conference in Hyderabad on Monday after chairing a meeting with Sindh Agriculture Department officials, Rahoo claimed that locust eggs were believed to be spread on an area of around 2.5 million acres in the desert regions. However, he said, the Sindh government was currently spraying insecticide on only 18,000 acres of land.

He asked the Plant Protection Department (PPD), which falls under the federal government, to launch a coordinated operation against locusts in the province without further delay.

According to the provincial minister, there were fears of locust attacks in seven districts of Sindh. Currently, the army and Rangers personnel, along with the teams of provincial government officials, were spraying agricultural fields in Kandhkot district, he said. Rahoo expressed concern that rainfall in the desert region would create a favourable atmosphere for locusts, which could trigger their rapid growth.

‘Locust plague can be as dangerous as pandemic’

Claiming that the Sindh government had sprayed around 150,000 acres of land last year, preventing several crops from being damaged, he added that the provincial administration was trying to hire planes to spray insecticides on an area of 25,000 square kilometres, mainly in the desert areas. "The federal PPD has a fleet of a few planes, but the Centre has not provided the province anything but a few vehicles," he lamented.

He added that the Sindh government had released Rs330 million for the locust control operations last year, while the agriculture department had spent only Rs181 million so far for purchasing 19 vehicles for the spraying operations and over 100,000 litres of insecticide.  He claimed that despite repeated requests since the last year, the PPD had only provided one vehicle to the province, without any funds for fuel. He further pointed out that China had donated 250,000 litres of insecticide to the Centre, which was not supplied to Sindh, adding that the provincial government had sought help from China to counter this crisis.

Responding to a question about the financial losses incurred by farmers due to locusts last year, the minister said the government was assessing the losses.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2020.

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