In recent days, there have been increasing numbers of anecdotal reports relating to locust swarms being spotted in Qatar. The infamous insects have a reputation for decimating crops and even causing famine, but the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) insists that these sightings are no cause for alarm. This point is echoed by experts.
Dr Jenny Lawler, Senior Research Director and Acting Executive Director of the Water Center at Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI) said that the MME is in control of the situation.
Concerns have been raised locally due to the increasing crisis unfolding in east Africa, especially in Kenya, where billions of locusts are ravaging agricultural areas in the worst infestation in 70 years. However, officials and experts are keen to stress that the situation in Qatar bears no resemblance to the African outbreak.
QEERI is part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University, and its scientists are following the current situation closely. According to Dr Lawler, the recent increases in locust infestations have been linked to climate change and changing weather patterns – perfect circumstances for breeding.
Locusts are actually common visitors to Qatar and the Gulf region, generally arriving between January and April each winter, although they appear to be present in greater numbers than usual this year. They are even considered to be a delicacy in some areas, and a prized source of natural nutrients. However, given that insecticide is being used by MME as part of a wide-ranging action plan to combat their threat, officials warned against eating the creatures.
Members of the public who observe the presence of locusts are asked to contact the agricultural pest control unit of the agricultural affairs administration, which can be reached at any of these numbers: 7743 8535 / 4426 1728 / 5544 8879.