The Afghan government is taking various tough measures including the sacking of governors, possible ground chemical spraying, to prevent the rocketing poppy cultivation in this country, a senior Afghan officer said Friday.
"If governors and district chiefs are not able to reduce poppy cultivation, at least they will lose their jobs," Said Mohammad Azam, director of Public Relation and Public Information of Afghan Counter Narcotics Ministry, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
District and police chiefs of Daryam in the northeastern Badakhshan province had been sacked for incapability in fighting drug, he added.
Azam said an eight-member anti-narcotics committee, grouping district and police chiefs, has been established in 108 districts of 11 provinces where poppy cultivation is rife.
The committee would supervise poppy crops closely and find ways to reduce it, he added.
In 2006, poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached a record 165, 000 hectares, up 59 percent from last year, according to a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime issued in September.
Opium production reached 6,100 tons, witnessing a 49 percent rise over 2005 and accounting for 92 percent of the world's total supply, the report said.
The Afghan government has been severely criticized by the international community, especially Western countries for its failure to curb the booming opium industry.
Azam said "Ground chemical spraying would be the last option if all other options do not work. But no decision of using chemical spraying has been made."
It is the first time that the Afghan government accepted that chemical spraying could be considered to curb poppy cultivation.
But Azam said aerial spraying is out of the choice, as it would do great harm to water resources, cattle, human being, etc.
The number of 6,100 tons of opium is "not acceptable and not tolerable," and it "brings a bad name for the country," said Azam, adding Afghanistan is pushing the national anti-drug campaign led by President Hamid Karzai.
However, analysts say it is a daunting task to curb opium production in Afghanistan as insecurity, official corruption and poverty there are providing fertile soil for the industry.
Moreover, as Azam said the government would not provide job opportunities, crop seeds, and other compensation for those who are forced or persuaded out of planting poppy, it is extraordinarily difficult for farmers to abandon the industry, which many tightly tie their lives to.