By Hamid Khan Wazir
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The locusts’ attacks wrought havoc in the district South Waziristan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa like elsewhere in the country; however, no tangible steps could be seen on the ground to tackle the danger as only water is being sprayed instead of insecticide at various places to hoodwink the masses.
The various tehsils of the long-deprived South Waziristan district have come under locusts’ attacks that multiplied the woes of the poverty-stricken masses of the area, as their standing crops spreading on thousands of hectors land destroyed by locusts.
These views were expressed by former Pakhtun Students Federation President and Awami National Party’s (ANP) former candidate for PK-114 Taj Muhammad Wazir.
Talking to this scribe, he said that locusts were attacking all fields, but the orchards of apple, plum, and apricot were badly damaged.
On 29 January 2020, the provincial Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government declared an emergency in nine southern districts of the province to control the spread of locust i.e., Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Lakki Marwat, Bannu, Karak, Kohat, Hangu, North and South Waziristan districts.
However, Adviser to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister on Information Ajmal Wazir said a few days ago that with crops in around 15 districts of the province ravaged by swarms of desert locusts.
He said that the provincial government launched an operation against the pests. Ajmal Wazir said that at least 80 teams are working against locusts in 15 districts of the province.
Teams from the K-P Agriculture Department, Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), army, and the district administration are participating in the operation, he said.
He added that until June 7, they had sprayed insecticides on 46,441 acres of land in the province while a survey of 381,2418 acres of land had been completed.
The provincial adviser added that anti-locust operations are currently underway in Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Karak, Hangu, Bannu, Kohat, Lakki Marwat, Orakzai, Kurram, South and North Waziristan, Khyber, Bajaur, Peshawar and Nowshera districts.
Ajmal Wazir said that people can report about the presence of locusts in their area by calling the PDMA’s helpline: 1700 or the Agriculture Department’s mobile number: 03481117070.
The National Agromet Centre has warned that around 10 percent higher rains, expected in the upcoming monsoon season, are going to provide a perfect environment for the locusts to thrive, which in the absence of drastic countermeasures could prove disastrous for the country’s agriculture production.
This above-average amount of rainfall and resultant extensive growth of vegetation would be ideal for new invading swarms in June and July from Africa and other south and south-western breeding areas.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the number of locusts is feared to grow 400 times by June onward and is likely to cause a crisis if left unchecked.
The farmers are using old methods like beating drums to scare away the locusts.
Taj Wazir said that the fields of tomato, ladyfinger, and maize are particularly more vulnerable to locusts attack. He said that the government should take steps on a war-footing basis to avoid the looming damage.
He demanded the provincial government and NDMA to dispatch teams to carry out anti-locust spray before the situation gets out of control.
Taj said that the people of the area who are mainly working in the Middle East to earn livelihood have already badly affected by the COVID-19 and now their sanding crops are being destroyed by the locust swarms that further their troubles.
Commenting about the government’s steps of spraying at various localities, the ANP leader said that the teams tasked to spray at various effected areas are just carrying water-filled pumps and just spraying water instead of spraying insecticides, which is unfortunate.
He said that the agriculture department completely failed to deal with locusts’ attacks, adding that the performance of the civil administration could be judged from the fact that it even could not make arrangements for drinking water facilities in Agri Prak what to talk to cope with the looming danger of locusts.
It is pertinent to mention here that swarms of locusts have hit various tehsils of district South Waziristan including Wana, Serwekai, Toi Khulla, brimil badly attacked.
Taj Wazir said that the locusts are now migrating towards other tehsils of the district including tehsil Shakai and Tiarza.
He demanded of the concerned quarters especially the NDMA to dispatch well-equipped teams to the long-neglected area to minimize the damages, as it could pose a threat to food security.
Din Muhammad Wazir, a social activist, demanded that as the situation is getting worst with each passing day; hence the authorities should dispatch aircraft and spraying machines filled with pesticides mounted on vehicles to eliminate the insects.
He said that a few days ago, locusts attacked crops in Shakai tehsil but luckily they left the area after staying for a few hours. However, he said that since they are present in other tehsils of the district; therefore the government should take preventive measures so as to save our crops from any further invasion of locusts.