‘Govt to spend Rs 7.3b to stop locust attacks’

Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: Minister for National Food Security and Research Khusro Bakhtiar Friday told the National Assembly that Rs 7.3 billion would be spent in one and a half year to combat the locust attacks to save the agriculture sector from their devastating effects.
He was responding to a calling attention notice of MNA Malik Ehsanullah Tiwana regarding unabated invasion of swarms of locusts on standing crops and trees worth millions of rupees, spread over large areas in Sindh, South Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Giving details about the flight pattern of the locust, he said the locust went from Cholistan and Thar deserts in Punjab and Sindh to Balochistan and for the first time it was sighted in March last year.

Last attack of the locust in Pakistan was in 1993 and after that year, the Plant Protection Department of the federal ministry which dealt with the problem was neglected and its planes and vehicles were in disrepair, he disclosed.
He said the Prime Minister had also taken notice of the situation and called the representatives of the federal and provincial governments which had come up with a plan of action to be implemented in one and a half year to curb the locust attacks.
After the present attack of locust over an area of 0.9 million hectares, action was taken against the pest over 0.3 million acres and aerial spray was done on 20,000 hectares.
He said the district administration, voluntary organizations, aviation division and armed forces were put into operation to combat the attack and save the crop lands. This time the locust swarm had not only spread into areas of Punjab and Sindh but it went further afar in Dera Ismail Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, he informed.
He said the committee of the National Assembly should help monitor and review the situation arising out of the locust attack and give feedback to the federal government. Due to persistent efforts of the government and an early release of Rs 500 million, the crops of rice and cotton were saved from the locust attack, he informed. The minister said the usual entry of the locust from Pakistan to Iran and Oman was delayed for some days due to severe winter weather and climate change but eventually the insects would enter these countries.