LAHORE: Fearing a locust attack, especially in the Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan regions, the Punjab government on Tuesday decided to tackle any possible attack with massive aerial and land spray of pesticides and using camels in the desert areas.

Presiding over a meeting Chief Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar ordered the authorities concerned to evolve a plan, in consultation the federal government, to deal with the threat of locust attack in south Punjab.

Locusts had attacked Balochistan from Iran and Sindh from India. The officials said they had been largely tackled in Balochistan; therefore, there were little chances of their invasion in Dera Ghazi Khan. Sindh too had fought against locusts but they might intrude into Bahawalpur division. Locusts had last attacked some Pakistani areas in 1992, damaging crops and plants.

The officials told Dawn that the meeting, presided over by the chief secretary, decided to use the Plant Protection Department’s specially designed aircraft to spray insecticides on the swarms of locust. Arrangements have also been made to purchase the required pesticides. Camels would be used to spray the pesticides in remote desert areas.

The officials added that special teams had been constituted and they were being trained on how to combat the menace and protect crops and plants from it in Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan.

The chief secretary also directed the agriculture department to ensure continuous monitoring and submit a report on a daily basis. The local communities should be mobilised for scouting as their cooperation would be important in combating locusts, he said and ordered the administrations of Bahawalpur and DG Khan to actively coordinate with provincial and federal agencies.

The agriculture secretary said the departments concerned had been alerted and 14 special teams had been formed. The provincial government was in contact with Sindh and Balochistan to get timely information about locusts. It was also coordinating with the federal institutions.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd , 2019