Pakistan declares national emergency over locust swarms" width="740" />
“We are facing the worst locust infestation in more than two decades and have decided to declare national emergency to deal with the threat,” Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said on Saturday.
The desert locusts - large herbivores that resemble grasshoppers - arrived in Pakistan from Iran in June and have already ravaged cotton, wheat, maize and other crops.
Favorable weather conditions and a delayed government response have helped the locusts breed and attack crop areas.
Their potential for large-scale destruction is raising fears of food insecurity.
National Food Security Minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar said the locust swarms were currently on the Pakistan-India border around Cholistan and were previously in Sindh and Balochistan, Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported.
“The locust attack is unprecedented and alarming,” Bakhtiar told Pakistani lawmakers in a briefing on Friday.
“Action has been taken against the insect over 0.3 million acres (121,400 hectares) and aerial spray was done on 20,000 hectares,” he was quoted as saying by Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune. “District administrations, voluntary organizations, aviation division and armed forces are put into operation to combat the attack and save the crops,” he added.
Prime Minister Imran Khan pledged to tackle the issue, adding that protection of agriculture and farmers was the government’s priority.
“The federal government will take all possible steps and provide required facilities to protect crops from any possible danger with special focus on the danger of locust,” Khan said, according to Dawn.
The last time Pakistan saw a serious threat of locusts was in 1993. Currently, locust swarms are affecting neighboring India and countries in East Africa.