South Asia

Published: Monday 28 February 2005

-- Pakistan swarmed: Pakistani crops are facing the risk of widespread locust attack and spread of Leishmaniasis disease. This is because the country's Plant Protection Department (PPD) cannot undertake aerial spraying of crops: all its aircraft are grounded, either due to fund shortage or technical problems. "Out of 20 aircraft, only four were operational. They have also been grounded for bureaucratic reasons," Syed Ghulam Raza Ja'afary, head of PPD's Aerial Pest Control Wing, reportedly said.

Sand flies have already attacked crops in many areas of Balochistan and Sindh. While over 7,000 cases of Leishmaniasis, caused by these flies, have been reported from Sindh, the disease is also widespread in Balochistan, though the number of cases are not known. Lack of aerial spraying raises the danger of locust swarms, which regularly devastate large areas of agricultural land in the country. "Due to the recent rains in Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan, the locust population may increase massively with the warming of the weather," warns Ja'afary.

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