KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah approved on Saturday the release of Rs286 million, besides unfreezing Rs132 million allocated to the agriculture department, for spraying pesticides to eradicate the locust swarms that have already damaged standing crops on over 166,701 acres of land in the province.
In a meeting, Sindh Agriculture Minister Muhammad Ismail Rahoo told the CM that locust swarms had reportedly descended on Jacobabad on April 25, while other regions, including Shikarpur, Larkana, Sukkur, Kashmore, Ghotki, Sukkur, Khairpur, Matiari, Gadap and Malir neighbourhoods in Karachi, Jamshoro and Hyderabad, had also been invaded by the insects. The CM was further apprised of locusts' presence in desert areas in Tharparkar, Umerkot, Sanghar, Shaheed Benazirabad, Khairpur, Sukkur and Ghotki.
Expressing the fear that the locusts could soon move from the desert regions to cultivated land, the CM ordered the agriculture department to continue the operation to eradicate the insects.
Meanwhile, representatives from the Centre's plant protection department (PPD) told the meeting that they had provided assistance to Sindh to prevent the locusts from spreading over 17,372 acres of land in Ghotki, Kashmore and Khairpur.
Adding to this, Rahoo said that the provincial agriculture department had also sprayed pesticides over 24,867 acres of land and so far, a total of around 41,500 acres of land across the province had been sprayed with pesticides.
Sharing further details of the survey and control operation in Sindh's cultivated areas, Rahoo informed the CM that vehicles, collectively mounted with 45 sprayers, were used for the purpose. However, he added, the province still required six aircrafts, ultra-low volume sprayers and adequate pesticides as well as more manpower in the field. He requested the CM to ask the Centre to provide them.
In addition, the Sindh chief secretary told the CM that the agriculture department needed Rs286 million for procuring 25 sprayer-mounted vehicles, chemicals and pesticides.
At this, the CM approved the release of the stated amount, as well as ordered the finance department to unfreeze another Rs132 million that had previously been frozen for coronavirus emergency measures.
The CM was told that crops in Sindh had borne only partial damage so far due to regular spraying.
He was apprised that the damaged crops included wheat, standing over 35,751 acres of land, oil seeds over 1,552 acres of land, pulses over 111 acres, fodder over 3,656 acres, vegetables over 4,247 acres and others crops collectively standing on 76,067 acres of land.
The CM observed that overall, 166,701 acres of land had been affected by the locust swarms.
He was warned by Rahoo that a further 4.33 million acres of land, bearing sugarcane, cotton and other crops, would suffer damage if timely spraying was not carried out.
At this, the CM ordered the chief secretary to call a joint meeting of the agriculture department and the PPD for devising a spraying strategy and submit a schedule to him.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2020.
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