FAO prepares crisis appeal for Pakistan’s locust issue

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ISLAMABAD: The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations plans to launch a crisis appeal in the coming days seeking resources for Pakistan to expand its efforts to control the current upsurge of desert locust in the country.

The revised version of appeal has been necessitated as the pest is threatening additional countries including Pakistan and Iran, with the Sahel region of Africa on watch, according to the progress report issued by FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu.

Early this year, the FAO successfully launched a crisis appeal for ten countries in the African continent where the invasion of locust swarms was extremely alarming and the FAO managed to mobilise $130 million enabling it to control the swarms of locusts in the affected countries of Africa.

The situation could turn similarly dire for Pakistan where 38 per cent of the area (60 per cent in Balochistan, 25 per cent in Sindh and 15 per cent in Punjab) are breeding grounds for the swarms and if they are not contained there is considerable risk that they can move to other parts of the country.

On the basis of vegetation, soil type and other factors, out of the total area of 437,900 square kilometres, 161,720 square kilometres were declared as more susceptible to locust attacks. Overall 124,299 square kilometres area has been surveyed in vulnerable areas of which 8,843 square kilometres have been treated.

According to a report prepared by FAO Pakistan on desert locust situation in Pakistan, in the next few weeks swarms from spring breeding will continue to move towards parts of Balochistan from where adult groups will move towards Iran by end May and continue throughout June.

The report warned that swarms that are not detected or treated in the spring breeding areas then they are likely to cross the Indus Valley and reach desert areas in Tharparkar, Nara and Cholistan just when the monsoon rains will commence creating havoc.

The latest situation report issued by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), says the Department for International Development (DFID) of United Kingdom has pledged to provide £6 million for locust control in Pakistan.

The amount will be spent through the FAO, which will provide 50 Ultra Low Volume (ULV) mist micronair sprayers, 100 e-locust devices and ten vehicles to the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) for locust survey and control.

In April, China provided locust assistance package including 300,000 litres of ULV and 50 vehicle mounted sprayers to Pakistan.

Pakistan and China are also discussing an action plan for agriculture which will strengthen cooperation in capacity building, technology innovation, aquaculture, foot and mouth disease-free zones and trade and investment, besides implementing the joint memorandum on strengthening cooperation in prevention and control of plant diseases and pests.

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