Locust invasion of Pakistan may lead to food crisis – experts

In this file photo, locusts fly over the National Cricket Stadium in the Pakistan's port city of Karachi on Nov. 11, 2019. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 13 February 2020

Locust invasion of Pakistan may lead to food crisis – experts

  • Locust breeding season starts in mid-February and will last till mid-March
  • Agriculture officials call for a joint KP, Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh strategy to contain the plague

PESHAWAR: Pakistan needs a coordinated strategy to deal with ongoing locust attacks, as the situation can result in a food emergency, agriculture officials and experts warned on Thursday.
Although the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government conducted ground and aerial spraying, Muhammad Naveed, deputy director for plant protection at the KP Agriculture Extension Department, told Arab News the insects were still entering the province from Balochistan and Punjab.
“We have conducted 20 operations through ground and aerial spray, finishing and containing the insects’ further spread. The only viable option is that all four provinces should launch a synchronized and coordinated strategy to counter the desert locusts efficiently,” Khan said, referring to KP, Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh, which have suffered the worst locust outbreaks.
“The country can face with food crisis if timely action isn’t taken,” he said.
Last week, the KP government used drone sprayers in parts of southern Dera Ismail Khan district amid an increase in locust swarms in the impoverished region.
Abdul Mateen Babar, a farmer in Dera Ismail Khan, told Arab News that locust attacks were reported in remote areas bordering Balochistan from where the insects were entering his region. “Locusts hover over ready crops like clouds in the sky,” he said.
Desert locusts, swarming short-horned grasshoppers, have been destroying crops in Africa and Asia for centuries. Their ability to move in huge swarms with great speed makes them one of the most devastating agricultural plagues.
In January last year, the locusts flew from the Red Sea coast of Sudan and Eritrea to hit Saudi Arabia and Iran. They entered Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province in March. In May, they arrived in Sindh.
The KP government declared a state of emergency after the insects entered Dera Ismail Khan in late January.
Dr. Anwar Bhittani, an agriculture expert from southern Tank district, said that locusts could now damage ready wheat crops as their breeding season starts in mid-February and will last till mid-March.
“One locust can damage food of several persons. In the current situation, the federal government should activate the departments of all the four provinces to produce a joint and synchronized strategy to deal with the looming danger,” he added.
Dr. Inamullah Khan, professor at the University of Agriculture Peshawar, said locusts naturally move to warmer places because of favorable weather conditions for their quick reproduction. They can travel 150 kilometers a day and a female insect lays up to 200 eggs at once, he added.
“The desert locusts are attacking wheat, which is our staple food. Our annual wheat production is almost 25 million tons … and our total consumption stands at 23.5 million tons annually. I fear there may be a food crisis if the insects cannot be controlled,” Khan said.


Going back: Upswing in foreigners for Pakistan’s T20 league

Updated 18 February 2020

Going back: Upswing in foreigners for Pakistan’s T20 league

  • Security concerns stopped foreign cricketers from touring Pakistan four years ago
  • Pakistan Cricket Board says foreign players coming to Pakistan is a ‘huge bonus’

ISLAMABAD: Security concerns stopped foreign cricketers from touring Pakistan four years ago when the country’s premier domestic Twenty20 tournament was launched, forcing organizers to stage the event on neutral turf in the United Arab Emirates.
When the 2020 edition of the Pakistan Super League starts in Karachi on Thursday, Darren Sammy of the West Indies and Shane Watson of Australia will be among 36 foreign cricketers involved in the six franchises.
“The foreign players coming is a huge bonus for us,” Pakistan Cricket Board chief executive Wasim Khan told the Associated Press. “It’s a massive step forward because they (foreign players) clearly believe that it’s safe to be here for 4-5 weeks.”
The return of international cricket has been a slow process in Pakistan following a terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team’s bus in Lahore during a test series in 2009.
For this T20 event, the PCB has worked with the Federation of International Cricketers Association and also shared its security plans with foreign stars to make them feel safe in Pakistan.
“We firmly believe now that we are in a good position,” Wasim said. “We’re delighted there are so many players coming here and it’s a great endorsement for us as a country.”
Pakistan cricket went into isolation for more than six years after the attack near Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore in 2009.
There was a ray of hope in 2015 when Zimbabwe toured for limited-overs series but it wasn’t enough for Pakistan to host its first PSL tournament the following year, forcing organizers to stage it in the UAE.
In 2017, the PSL final was played at a packed Qaddafi Stadium, in stark contrast to the group-stage matches that were contested in mostly empty venues in the UAE.
Over the next two years, a World XI, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies also played limited-overs matches in Pakistan, and more PSL games were staged in Lahore and Karachi.
The PCB overcame another barrier when it hosted test matches last year in Pakistan for the first time in a decade. Pakistan successfully hosted two tests against Sri Lanka in December and, after a lot of negotiations, last month managed to convince Bangladesh to play a test in Rawalpindi.
All the ‘cricket comes home’ activities, of course, require heavy security surrounding the foreign teams, with the kind of armed security and road closures usually reserved for visiting heads of state. Visiting players have had virtually no movement outside the team hotels or match venues — although a few Sri Lanka players went to a shopping mall while they stayed in the federal capital.
But Wasim believes that over time, the blanket security can be eased and players will feel more relaxed.
“Certainly it’s something that we are looking at,” he said. “The more we play at home, the more confidence people have, the better it will become. We certainly can’t sustain state-level security.”
More freedom of movement for visiting players and ensuring costs for security don’t overburden federal and local governments has to be balanced, Wasim said, with “making sure we never become complacent and we provide the right level of security.”
In a bid to reassure cricket officials from countries such as Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa about the security situation, Pakistan invited the Marylebone Cricket Club — the guardians of the laws of cricket — for limited-overs matches in Lahore.
Led by ex-Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara, who is also MCC president, the players have had VIP-level security, which is a slightly lower level than that provided to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka squads for recent series.
“MCC has played golf ... so we’ve given them the level of freedom which under VIP status you can afford. Certainly, that’s something that we wish to move forward as well,” Wasim said.
Sangakkara has also backed Pakistan’s efforts to resume international cricket in Pakistan.
“Security is always a major concern everywhere is the world,” Sangakkara said. “In Pakistan I think the steps that have been taken over the past few years have instilled great amounts of confidence in the cricketing nations beyond the shores of Pakistan and slowly but surely that confidence is building up.
“The more times international sides tour that message becomes stronger and becomes harder to ignore.”
And Wasim believes the need for Pakistan to ‘host’ international cricket series in neutral countries is closer to ending.
“There’s no reason for us to play anywhere else now,” Wasim said. “Cricket has firmly resumed within the country and we fully expect this to be the way moving forward.”