Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhr Imam has announced that Rs20bn had been allocated under the Annual Development Plan to deal with the locust problem that is creating problems for farmers in almost half the districts of the country.
Speaking with media personnel after presiding over the second meeting of the National Locust Control Centre, the minister said that the federal government would contribute Rs9.7bn, while the rest of the amount would be provided by the provinces.
Imam said that since Baluchistan had been severely affected by locusts, Rs4bn would be allocated to the province.
Imam 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 said that the government would be able to control the 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: swarms of locusts from East Africa are attacking crops.”
About preparations at the federal and provincial level to face off the challenge, Imam said that co-ordination between the governments is by and large good.
He said that the newly established National Locust Control Centre would issue weather forecasts and would give advance information to the NDMA and the plant protection department ahead of the movement of locusts in order to launch the operation.
Imam said that the government planned set up such centres in each province so that forecast on locust movements could be passed on at district and tehsil levels.
He said that the capacity of the plant protection department is being augmented with the hiring of 100 technical experts on an emergency basis.
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 the NDMA, the funds 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.
Imam explained that the micronair had the capacity of spraying 300 acres of land in one day.
The meeting was attended by all the provincial chief secretaries by videoconferencing, besides officials of the agriculture departments.
According to details released by the Centre, joint teams of the provincial agricultural departments, the ministry of national food security, and the Pakistan Army are 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 227,610sq km has been completed, and operations on 481,400 hectares have been concluded.
In the last 24 hours, a survey of 3,129sq km has been completed and operations on 44sq km were carried out.
So far, control operations have been carried out on 2,683sq km in Baluchistan, 1,480sq km in Punjab, 377sq km in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and 274sq km in Sindh.
Aerial spraying with helicopters and beaver aircraft was also being carried out.
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