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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 February 2019

Swarms of locusts descend on Al Dhafra in Abu Dhabi

Local authorities are working to contain the infestation using minimally invasive pesticides

What was once a source of bountiful feasts for Bedouins has become a nuisance for the residents of Al Dhafra, and could in future become a threat to hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people.

A plague of desert locusts has invaded parts of Al Dhafra, south of Mussaffah, weeks after reports of locust clouds in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi is working alongside local authorities to contain the swarm through the use of minimally invasive pesticides.

The most devastating of migratory pests, the desert locust poses a serious threat to agriculture. At their worst, they can easily affect 20 per cent of the earth’s land, threatening the livelihood of a 10th of the world’s population.

Their ability to survive and breed in a range of climates in areas covering 29 million square kilometres in 65 countries from West Africa to the Indian subcontinent means locusts can destroy crops in some of the most impoverished nations.

In the winter, certain areas of the UAE are prone to locust swarms as they migrate from coastal areas of neighbouring countries. The ravenous swarms take flight if temperatures remain warm and consistent for weeks on end.

The latest infestation, which some residents documented on social media, has not yet caused any damage in the UAE, but the authorities are monitoring the situation.

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Dr Humaid Al Kindi, director of Emergency, Safety and Business Continuity at EAD, said teams have been assigned to assess the intensity of the infestation and could enact an emergency plan. The plan will probably include larger teams using stronger pesticides to eliminate the potential of the swarm growing.

The EAD asked the public to refrain from collecting the locusts, to avoid any health hazards.

The UN has identified insects as an environmentally friendly alternative food source and a great source of protein to feed the world’s growing population. They are also a long-documented Bedouin delicacy, cooked and eaten whole. In Saudi Arabia, markets have been flooded, with locusts selling for Dh40 to Dh50 a kilogram.

But the threat to agriculture in the UAE, and potentially a large part of Asia and Africa, presents a real concern for authorities.

Updated: January 18, 2019 10:11 AM

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