Rs20bn allocated for anti-locust operation, says Imam

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ISLAMABAD: Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhr Imam announced on Friday that Rs20 billion had been allocated under the Annual Development Plan to control locusts that had created problems for farmers in almost half the districts of the country.

Talking to media personnel on Friday after presiding over the second meeting of the National Locust Control Centre, Mr Imam said the federal government would contribute Rs9.7bn, while the rest of the amount would be shared by the provinces.

He said that since Balochistan had been severely affected by locusts, Rs4bn would be allocated to the province.

He said that Rs1bn had already been released to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), which is carrying out anti-locust operations in the country, and by next month another Rs1bn would be released to the authority to speed up the operations.

The minister for national food security claimed that the government would be able to control locusts in the next two to three months.

“In June and July, swarms of locusts will come from the whole of Africa, and we have to be on our toes as we are expecting swarms of locusts on a very large scale,” he warned. This is a freak incident and a quantum of swarms of locusts from East Africa in very large numbers are attacking crops,” he said.

About preparations at the level of federal and provincial governments to face off the challenge, Mr Imam said that coordination between them was by and large good.

He said the newly established National Locust Control Centre would issue weather forecasts and would give advance information to NDMA and the plant protection department ahead of the movement of locusts in order to launch the operation.

He said the government wanted to set up such centres in each province so that forecast on the locust movements could be passed on at district and tehsil levels.

Mr Imam said that the capacity of the plant protection department was being augmented with the hiring on emergency basis of 100 technical experts. The department is currently operating with only 31 technical staff.

The minister disclosed that the government has placed an order for ultra-low volume (ULV) micronair sprayers with a firm in the United Kingdom. According to NDMA, the amount for the purchase of 83 micronair sprayers has been transferred to the Pakistan High Commission in London. Fourteen sprayers will arrive in Pakistan by end of June, while the remaining will be delivered in July.

Mr Imam explained that the micronair had the capacity of spraying 300 acres of land in one day.

The meeting was attended by all chief secretaries of the provinces through a video link, besides officials of the agriculture departments.

According to details released by the Centre, joint teams of provincial agricultural departments, ministry of national food security, and Pakistan Army were carrying out survey and control operations in various affected districts. In 61 affected districts, 1,150 joint teams were carrying out the operation.

So far, a survey of 227,610 square kilometres has been completed and operation on 481,400 hectares has been concluded. During the last 24 hours, survey of 3,129 square kilometers has been completed and operation on 44 square kilometres was carried out.

So far, control operation has been carried out on 2,683 sq-kms in Balochistan, 1,480 sq-kms in Punjab, 377 sq-kms in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and 274 sq-kms in Sindh. Aerial spray using helicopters and beaver aircraft was also being carried out.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2020

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