By Islamuddin Sajid
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AA) - A swarm of locusts took parts of southern and southwestern Pakistan by storm, after having passed through Iran and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan said on Monday.
Several districts in the Balochistan and Sindh provinces were affected by the locusts where the government initiated measures to contain the outbreak, the National Food Security & Research Ministry said in a statement.
According to the ministry, the immature Desert Locust swarms initially invaded the Arabian Peninsula and migrated from the Red Sea coast of Sudan and Eritrea in January.
Saudi Arabia quickly launched a control operation but the undetected and uncontrolled gregarious locust adults moved towards Iran in February 2019, where ecological conditions were favorable for their breeding, with green vegetation and soil wet due to heavy rainfall, where mature desert locust laid eggs, the ministry added
The locusts rapidly began to multiply in Iran, which immediately initiated a control campaign with an approximate 400,000 hectares being treated so far.
Despite the massive control operation, a number of undetected locust swarms migrated in Balochistan, Pakistan in March, said the ministry.
With the ecological condition also being conducive in Balochistan due to the rainfall in the region, farmers said that the situation was worrying and that they needed immediate government assistance to protect their fields.
"We have no resources to control the situation and have requested the concerned authorities immediately take steps to overcome on this disaster" Mir Jamal, a local farmer in Balochistan, told Anadolu Agency.
Local officials initiated a campaign to contain the outbreak, he said, adding that the situation is yet to be brought under control.
Authorities in Pakistan said they deployed a locust survey and control team to start containment operations in Pasni, Gwadar, Turbat, Uthal, Kharan and Dalbandin, Lasbella, Kech, Khairpur and other districts soon after the locust reports were received.
The locusts have successfully been driven from 7,470 hectares in Balochistan and 800 hectares in Tehsil Thari Mirwah of Khairpur.
"The situation is now under control, we have deployed aircraft at Sukkur and also plan possible emergency aerial spraying from Quetta airports" said Mehboob Sultan, federal minister for national food security and research.
The Department has a sufficient stock of pesticide with more being procured to effectively tackle the situation, he added.
The winter-spring breeding season is now coming to an end as vegetation and soil moisture begin recede in Balochistan. However, some groups of locust have started to migrate towards the Tharparkar and Nara deserts of the Sindh and Cholistan desert of Punjab and also in Rajasthan desert of India, in search of vegetation.