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Murad calls for ‘national action plan’ to control locust swarms

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KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Friday said that his government had spent Rs 696.19 million to control the locust swarm but the threat was so serious that there was a dire need to devise a “National Action Plan” to control the situation.

This he said while participating in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s meeting on locust swarm attacks via video link from the CM House.

The PM held the meeting at Islamabad with the chief ministers of all the provinces.

CM Shah, who participated in the meeting through video link, was assisted by Sindh Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahu, Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, Secretary Finance Hassan Naqvi, Secretary Agriculture Raheem Soomro, Secretary Food Laiq Ahmed and others.

The chief minister informed the meeting that breeding season of locust, which had settled in the deserts of Thar and Nara, would start from July to December 2020 and during the same period they would breed in Cholistan area of Punjab.

He told the prime minister that the desert locust swarm was reported in Nara desert on May 31, 2019 and he had approached the federal government to initiate ground and aerial spray.

He added that the federal plant protection department initiated ground operation on June 3, 2019.

The CM said that the plant protection department had aircraft but they had no funds to purchase fuel for aerial spray in the desert area of Sindh, therefore he gave them a grant of Rs10m.

He told the prime minister that the provincial government had also released Rs335.095m to provincial agriculture department to purchase vehicles, spray machines, pesticides, fuel and support to field staff. “Out of Rs335.095 million, Rs209.746 million have been utilised so far,” he said.

Mr Shah also said that Rs16m were released to the deputy commissioners of five districts — Ghotki, Sanghar, Tharparkar, Umerkot and Khairpur.

The chief minister said that 57 teams of agriculture extension with 200 field staff equipped with 25 vehicles were working in the field to control the locust swarms.

He added that 300 solo power spray and 10,000 hand sprayers were provided to the field staff for locust operation.

The CM also told the PM that 100,000 litres of lambda cyhalothrin 2.5 EC had been purchased, out of which 75,000 litres were supplied to the districts and 25,000 litres stock was available for emergency.

Talking about losses caused by locust swarm attacks, the chief minister said that 168,701 acres of cropping area was affected, adding that 997,260 acres of desert were also affected by locust.

He said that 636,996 acres of desert area was sprayed by federal plant protection department and Sindh agriculture extension department.

The CM added that 46,015 acres were sprayed aerially, while overall 805,624 acres of land/desert were sprayed so far.

Official sources quoted the prime minister as saying that it was a national emergency and the federal government would make all-out efforts to control the locusts.

The chief minister also urged the prime minister to hire the aircraft from China or UAE for conducting aerial spray which was agreed in the meeting.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2020

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