How Dubai eliminated the locust swarms spotted recently

Dubai : Emergency team, consisting of qualified agricultural technicians, was formed and highly efficient equipment was introduced.

How Dubai eliminated the locust swarms spotted recently

Residents in parts of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, especially Al Ain, recently spotted swarms of a pest not commonly seen in the UAE – the desert locust. As many took to social media to record the unusual sightings last month, the Dubai Municipality was quick to assure that the situation was under control.

In its latest statement, the municipality shared with Khaleej Times how the rapid response of Department of Agriculture and Irrigation made sure that the swarms would not cause massive agricultural damage similar to the alarming devastation across swathes of land in Africa and Asia.

The desert locust is known for its ability to cover tremendous distances while flying at great speeds – up to 17 hours non-stop per day, to be precise. It is an international scourge and a threat to agricultural production and food security, as a single square kilometre swarm can destroy the equivalent of 35,000 individuals’ food intake per day. 

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Therefore, at the beginning of May, when a dense swarm of locusts was detected in the Hatta region, ground control teams were immediately directed to the site, where they conducted control operations for 24 hours over a period of several days.

Using effective pesticides, they successfully trapped and eliminated the locusts, while conducting thorough surveys to trace any remains of the swarms and responding rapidly to any notifications or reports from the public.

Sightings during Eid

The swarms monitored in the skies in several areas of Dubai during the first days of Eid-Al-Fitr were the result of an increase in speed of southeastern winds as well as sporadic precipitation that aided swarms coming from Iran, authorities said.

As the locusts settled in some areas of Jebel Ali and neighbouring areas, teams from the municipality moved quickly to survey and control the situation for the next three days until it was confirmed that there were no locusts in those areas.

Pest control strategy

The Dubai Municipality’s Department of Agriculture and Irrigation had been conducting continuous surveys in various parts of the emirate in accordance with its annual plan to control agricultural pests.  So when the swarms entered the country earlier this year, they knew right away.

“Last February, locusts in small numbers had been sighted in some areas of Abu Dhabi,” it explained.

“However, by the end of April, due to the multiplication of locust swarms on the border of the Sultanate of Oman, large numbers of the desert locust were detected in the Al Ain region, too.”

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As a result of the proximity of Al Ain to the borders of Dubai, the team raised the state of readiness “to the highest degree” and activated the approved pest contingency plan, said Mohamed Abdel-Rahman Al Awadi, director of the Department of Agriculture and Irrigation.

An emergency team, consisting of qualified agricultural technicians, was formed and highly efficient equipment was introduced, the municipality said.

The equipment, proven to be effective in desert locust control, included two Furell vehicles and two spray machines with ULV technology.

The number of equipped control teams was raised to 14, and 500 litres of specialised pesticides were provided to them, together with the necessary safety tools.

Nearly 20 thousand hectares were surveyed and explored, as the department’s call centre received 100 notices from various external and private parties.

The municipality confirmed that most of them were dealt with effectively and rapidly, and all public inquiries were answered around the clock.

What to do when you spot them

Authorities clarified that locusts do not cause direct harm to humans, such as by transmitting diseases or stinging. However, its intensive presence and rapid movement has a tendency to cause panic and fear among community members.

Residents are encouraged not to be afraid if they sight locust swarms, but to rather assist by first taking a photo of the locusts and then contacting the Dubai Municipality call centre on 800900 to report the location.

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The authority assured that callers would be contacted within five minutes of their report and a response to do the needful would be activated rapidly.

Precautions farmers must take

The department called on individuals in the community, especially farmers, to exercise caution if their crops were exposed to locust infestation.

They must transport animals or livestock from the affected site and remove honeybee cells (if any).

They must cover wells before conducting chemical control operations to tackle the locusts, so that the animal population is not exposed to pesticides, and water pollution does not occur.

In case locust control needs to be executed in wild or pastoral areas, it is necessary to be wary of grazing in these areas 10 days before the date of pest control.

Such persons are also advised not to use

Feed crops or agricultural crops  that were exposed to the chemicals should not be used in the next 15 days after the pest control,

Locusts should not be collected afterwards. Avoid touching the pests directly and get rid of it by burying it in the soil at a depth of 30cm instead, the municipality recommended.

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