In recent days, there have been increasing numbers of anecdotal reports relating to locust swarms being spotted in Qatar.
These insects have a reputation for decimating crops and even causing famine, but the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) insists that such isolated sightings are no cause for alarm, Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) said in a statement Monday.
“There have been some limited sightings of locusts thus far in Qatar, with the Ministry of Municipality and Environment in good control of the situation,” says Dr Jenny Lawler, senior research director and acting executive director of the Water Centre at Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (Qeeri).
Concerns have been raised locally due to the increasing crisis unfolding in east Africa, especially in Kenya, where billions of locusts are ravaging agricultural areas in the worst infestation for 70 years.
However, officials and experts are keen to stress that the situation in Qatar bears no resemblance to the African outbreak.
The Qeeri is part of HBKU, and its scientists are following the current situation closely.
“While around for thousands of years, recent increases in locust infestations have been linked with climate change and changing weather patterns leading to perfect circumstances for breeding,” says Dr Lawler.
Locusts are actually common visitors to Qatar and the Gulf region, generally arriving between January and April each winter, although they appear to be present in greater numbers than usual this year.
They are even considered to be a delicacy in some areas, and a prized source of natural nutrients.
However, given that insecticide is being used by the MME as part of a wide-ranging action plan to combat their threat, officials have warned against eating the creatures.
“Insecticides are vital in this case,” says Dr Lawler. “However, they can be detrimental to the environment and human health, persisting for a long time.
“Qeeri will continue to monitor the presence of chemicals and the quality of air and water in Qatar.”
Members of the public who observe the presence of locusts are asked to contact the agricultural pest control unit of the agricultural affairs administration, which can be reached by phone on 77438535, 44261728 or 55448879.