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Now, the locusts

Away from the capital cities, swarms of deadly locusts have descended on dusty, semi-arid districts of Balochistan. There are reports that miles upon miles of landscape has lost all greenery and turned into bald, dry, parched earth. Media reports from Dalbandin, Washuk, Panjgur and Khetran districts suggest that the swarms have eaten countless trees in residential areas, orchards and the occasional oases. No intervention has been attempted so far.
Many settlements in Dalbandin have been attacked by short-horned desert locusts since Eid. They are visible in every street – flying, jumping and idle. The swarm did not materialize overnight. It is said that the sandy areas of southern Dalbandin had been no-go for humans as well as cattle for a long time. Left alone, the pests pose a real threat to food crops, livelihoods, food security, the environment and economic development. Scores of date and pomegranate orchards have already been eaten up. Farmers say they have seen stems of date palms eaten by the locusts within hours.
Our municipalities have very weak pest scouting and control systems. Most of the local government entomologists specialize in restricting mosquito populations. What is needed is an effective strategy put in place quickly and a campaign waged strenuously. The administration in Chaghi is reported to have resorted to ground level insecticide spray without much impact. The Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Agriculture Department have joined the local administration in their efforts to limit the insects. The FAO says adult locust swarms can fly up to 150 kilometers a day. A female locust can lay 300 eggs in a lifetime. An adult insect can “consume roughly its own weight in fresh food per day – about two grams… a very small swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people. The devastating impact locusts can have on crops poses a major threat to food security, especially in already vulnerable areas.”
The situation demands that the Balochistan government arrange for aerial spray in the sandy districts considering early attempts have shown that ground operations may not be effective. The federal government too should allocate funds for pest control. There is need for a dedicated network to be put in place to contain further attacks.



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