Emergency declared in nine districts after Dera locust attack

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Manzoor Ali

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Wednesday declared emergency to control spread of locust in nine southern districts of the province following the entry of large swarms of pest to Dera Ismail Khan district.

The relief, rehabilitation and settlement department issued a communiqué declaring emergency to tackle the locust infestation in Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Lakki Marwat, Bannu, Karak, Kohat, Hangu, North and South Waziristan districts. It said the agriculture, livestock and cooperative department had shared a situation report regarding the locust infestation in southern districts of the province and apprehensions of their spread due to rising temperatures, and asked for the declaration of emergency to control the invasion.

The department said the province was wheat deficient and its southern districts were critical for wheat production, so immediate measures needed to be taken for the protection of crops and agriculture in these areas.

It said the emergency imposed under Section 16(A)1 of the Disaster Management (KP) Act would be applicable to the extent of proactive and reactive measures of the agriculture, livestock and cooperative department for locust control, including protection through sprays and other containment measures.

The department said the district management committees would be set up in every district for effective coordination.

“These committees will be headed by the relevant deputy commissioners besides nine other officials from an array of government agencies. Besides, an emergency response cell will also be set up at the agriculture department and its district offices, while other departments have been directed to provide assistance to the agriculture department in fighting locust,” it said.

Saadullah Khan, a farmer from Daman area of Dera Ismail Khan, told Dawn by phone that a huge locust swarm had entered the area from Punjab.

Daman area is situated in the southernmost tip of the province and is connected to the Dera Ghazi Khan area of Punjab.

Mr Saadullah said hundreds of villagers spent an arduous day on Monday beating drums to scare away large swarms of locusts hovering over the crops throughout the day. He, however, said the locust did not damage crops apparently due to low temperature.

“The swarms were so huge that they looked like dust storm from afar and enveloped the entire area within minutes,” he said.

The grower feared a drought-like situation if proper attention was not paid to it as the locust would devour all greenery in the area, which depends on farming.

“Even most of the people have here taken loans for cultivating their crops,” he said.

Mr Saadullah said the rising temperate was likely to cause more damage to crops in the area. He urged the government to tackle the issue to ‘save poor farmers from starvation’ saying the locust has caused havoc in several districts of Punjab.

The grower said there were 22 hamlets in the area and they were all dependent on agriculture.

Agriculture secretary Mohammad Israr told Dawn that currently, there was a ‘locust movement’ in Daraband area of Dera Ismail Khan district.

He, however, insisted that the movement was not severe and preventive measures were being taken against infestation.

Mr Israr said swarms had entered the area from Punjab and the area currently affected was located close to the border.

He said the department of plant protection was properly equipped to conduct aerial sprays to control the pest but the agriculture department was trying to raise public awareness and mobilise communities in the affected areas to minimise crop damages.

Mr Israr said emergency was declared due to the possible damages to crops in Dera and Tank districts, where temperature usually went up a bit earlier compared to other areas.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2020

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