KARACHI: Amid growing cases of dengue and waterborne diseases, the Sindh administration has asked the federal government for an aircraft owned by its plant protection department to carry out aerial fumigation in the flood-hit areas of the province.

The Sindh government made the request after it found it hard to control the situation through conventional methods of fumigation using spraying machines and anti-mosquito equipment.

The fresh proposal came following suggestions from health authorities calling for effective fumigation in rural and urban areas of the province where flood survivors are dealing with several health issues, including serious risks of mosquito-borne infections.

So far, officials and sources privy to the process said that the fumigation in such areas through old techniques had proved badly ineffective.

Officials say conventional methods have failed to control mosquitoes due to inaccessible roads

“These methods include fumigation through spraying machines,” said an official, citing different techniques of the anti-mosquito fumigation in the flood-hit districts.

The official continued: “These machines are sometimes mounted over vehicles while mostly carried out by local staff manually on foot in streets or thoroughfares. The floods have made several areas inaccessible both for vehicles and staff. Secondly, the number of mosquitoes is so high that it can’t be handled with these conventional fumigation methods.”

He then referred to the use of aircraft for the fumigation purposes mainly in the flood-hit areas where the stagnant water provide perfect conditions for mosquito breeding and one cannot access those areas for conventional fumigation.

“Secondly, you would remember that in late 2019, the provincial government used the plant protection aircraft to eliminate swarms of locusts,” he said. “The aircraft were called in when the conventional methods of spray and fumigation had failed to achieve the desired results. Same is the case of mosquitoes this time.”

The official said that the mosquitoes flourished in warm conditions while the floodwater was also providing favourable conditions to their life cycle as they lay eggs in and around water. “The flood-hit areas are at a great risk of diseases amid this increased breeding.”

He said the aerial wing of the department of plant protection was the sole emergency response unit in the region. The primary function of the wing, he said, was aerial spray to control locust while its other functions include spray on crops, seed broadcasting, hygiene-spray operation, leaflet dropping for awareness and participation in foreign countries’ spray missions under bilateral agreements with the friendly countries.

“The aerial wing of the department also has the technical manpower and maintenance-supporting shops duly approved by the Civil Aviation Authority. This is one of the oldest aerial wings in the subcontinent and has played a major role in pest control in Pakistan,” he added.

The Sindh government has recently allocated Rs480 million to procure anti-mosquito spraying equipment for 24 districts of the province following rise in mosquito-borne diseases after the floods.

According to the Sindh government data, over 3,000 people were diagnosed with malaria and over 1,000 others with dengue during the current month in the province.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2022

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