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Govt scrambles spray planes to battle locust invasion in Sindh


July 2, 2019

LAHORE: Pakistan’s battle against the swarms of locusts, which swooped on Sindh province recently, has heated up as the government has scrambled an aerial insecticidal spray operation to salvage crops from further damage, an official said on Monday.

The destructive power of locusts lies in its gregarious nature that enables it to move in swarms, consuming whatever vegetation they find in its way. A senior official at Ministry of National Food Security & Research said special teams deputed by the ministry started the aerial spray in Khairpur district in close coordination with Sindh government.

From 30th June, sprays are being conducted for taking effective measure against hundreds and thousands of locusts that are in a feeding frenzy in the rural areas of the province, posing a serious threat to the agricultural production of the season, the official said.

The official said Capt Syed Shakir Ali and Capt Muhammad Zaman Cheema lead the operation, flying a Beaver DHC-2 aircraft as part of the aerial application with the technical support of Fakhar-Uz-Zaman, an expert entomologist.

The first operation was carried out in Laiwaro and Gabarwaro in the heart of Nara Desert along Khairpur and Sukkur, the official said, adding, during the two-hour long sortie, immature gregarious adults (Pink Colour) of locusts were targeted by applying 200 litres of pesticide over 500 acres of land.

It must be noted that until last week, locusts had also started showing up in Manjhand, Dadu district near the Indus River as the insect needed moisture to breed. Currently, 20 percent of the locusts have entered the irrigated areas, while 80 percent were still roaming in the deserted and non-irrigated areas.

Along with aerial and ground teams' efforts, the senior official of the ministry said concentrated steps were being taken to fix the issues hindering progress of Department of Plant Protection (DPP) to make it a vibrant institution.

He said the DPP was in need of thorough revamping in order to enhance capacity for reviving their original task of locust control, while permanent postings at key posts also needed to be done.

The official further said streamlining of funds’ generation was also being prioritised, whereas the government would ensure proper a fleet of spray planes and vehicles for locust control. On the other hand, Punjab government has also mobilised aerial and ground teams for controlling the locust invastion.

A spokesman of Punjab agriculture department said teams were working for continuous monitoring of locust swarm in South Punjab. “The government of Punjab is in contact with relevant agencies to deal with any emergency situation,” the spokesman said.

After receiving reports of attack of Locusts Swarm in some areas of Balochistan and Sindh, the government of Punjab is high on alert to deal with this threat and adopting all possible precautionary as well as remedial measures to save their crops from possible locust attack, the spokesman said.

Moreover, he added that at Punjab level, Provincial Disaster Management Authority, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan District administrations were also in close contact. He said Punjab was coordinating with the federal government institutions, especially the ministry of food security, Federal Plant Protection Department and other relevant institutions, while large amount of pesticides had also been purchased to combat a possible locust attack.

The spokesman added that the spray aircraft of the Federal Plant Protection Department would also be available in Punjab for the same. He further said Punjab government had managed pesticides and if required, the areas of Cholistan, where vehicular access was limited, special teams along with machinery and spraying equipment would also be dispatched through camels.

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