Authorities have warned that Pakistan could face another massive locust attack in the next few weeks. They are more prepared to deal with the short-horned grasshoppers this time than the last significant attack.
Chairman National Disaster Management Authority, Lt Gen Mohammad Afzal, briefed the diplomatic corps at the National Locust Control Centre (NLCC) in this regard. He said the locust infestation is likely to peak in the next three to four weeks.
Next eight weeks between July 15 and Sept 15 would be critical because of monsoon and the government’s ongoing commitment with anti-COVID-19 measures.
He informed that Pakistan falls on the locust migratory route and has both summer and spring breeding areas. The country, therefore, receives outbreaks every now and then. The last major attack started in June last year following the start of the climate change-induced international locust crisis in 2018.
This year is expected to be the worst in three decades because of a longer monsoon season last year and rain towards the end of the season due to sea warming. Though the country is much more equipped to deal with the problem than it was last year, the multifront war against the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing monsoon rains may impede efforts to control the locust invasion.
NLCC’s Deputy Coordinator, Maj Gen Saeed Akhtar, noted that the insects’ migration from Iran has decreased, but Pakistan is still in danger from another attack. He observed that the problem could continue for two to three years.
The NDMA chief is optimistic about the level of preparedness:
We are six to seven notches up in terms of preparations than last year and much better equipped than in 1993.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Food Security and Research Secretary, Omar Hamid Khan, has predicted that the swarms coming from the Horn of Africa could be 400 times bigger than those that came last year.