Islamabad, May 29, 2020: “Farmers across Pakistan are suffering the worst plague of locusts in recent history which will cause a loss of Rs 600 billion to Pakistani economy. This will be economically devastating for us as agriculture accounts for 20% of GDP and 65% of the population live and work in agricultural areas. The fact that the locust plague in Pakistan may wipe out livelihoods and worsen food security, should be enough to wake the Federal government from its deep slumber to help the farmers,” said PPP Parliamentary Leader in the Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman said.
She added, “Around 38% of Pakistan is now a breeding ground for the desert locusts and more than 140,000 acres of crops have been damaged in Pakistan alone since last April. Considering these grim reports, it is surprising that the Federal government has not come up with an effective policy to tackle this issue”.
“Sindh is the most vulnerable to this new locust invasion and can lead to a potential loss of Rs451 billion, which, is approximately 70% of Sindh’s budget but the federal government has still not launched a spraying drive in Sindh and nor has PM Khan taken any action despite CM Sindh’s request. Sindh government has been reporting issues to the federation for a year but as always there was no response from them,” Rehman said.
She said, “As this issue comes under the domain of the Federal Ministry of National Food Security, particularly the Department of Plant Protection, Provinces require Federal government’s assistance in addressing this issue. Instead the Federal government is falsely claiming that the situation has been handled and they have done aerial sprays but the Sindh Agriculture Minister has proved that in the last 6 months, no area in Sindh has been sprayed”.
“Since it is the Federal government’s responsibility, CM Sindh had asked for the provision of 6 aircraft, ultra-low volume (ULV) sprayers, pesticides and lambda cyhalothrin emulsified concentrate in sufficient quantities, besides human resources in the form of field teams. But what we got was just an old aircraft and a pilot which had been deployed for combatting locusts in Sindh and Balochistan. We are still waiting for the Federal government to provide 5 more aircrafts and pesticides for locust control in the province before the harvest of Kharif crops,” said the Senator.
“PPP was the first one to talk about the locust invasion and President Zardari also highlighted it in the Parliament last year but the Federal government did not pay any heed to it. The damage has been done and it should serve as a wakeup call for the Federal government to take action as it will amplify mass hunger,” she added.
The Senator said, “This is a crisis in the making due to its impending threat to our food security and warrants immediate measures by the Federal government. The affected areas need to be sprayed on urgent basis as our mango, cotton, onion, chilli, tomato and other crops have already been destroyed which could have been easily prevented had the Federal government been swift in their response”.
Rehman questioned, “Why is it that every time we are faced with a crisis, the Federal government is the last one to respond? Does the Federal government not realise that its negligence can cause us severe damage? Is it not their responsibility to come up with a strategy to control this plague?”
Discussing the way forward, she said, “Early warning, early response, and inter-provincial collaboration are critical elements for battling the locust invasion. NDMA must assist provinces in setting up an early response system and a National Action plan on the new locust invasion must be created”.
“60% of our population is already facing food insecurity and if this current crisis is not controlled in time, the results will be devastating. It is high time that they step up and take responsibility as this issue pertains to the Federal government. It will be the Federal government’s fault if the country faces a famine due to their negligence and incompetence,” concluded PPP Parliamentary Leader in the Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman.