Bilawal urges Centre to act immediately to ward off fresh locust attack

NCOC calls for dedicated forum to deal with issue


​ Our Correspondents May 08, 2020
PHOTO: NNI/FILE

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday asked the federal government to immediately implement the National Action Plan (NAP) formulated to control the locust attack in the country.

Also, the National Command and Operations Center (NCOC) underlined the need for creating a dedicated forum to effectively combat the imminent threat of locust through strong inter-provincial coordination.

In a statement, the PPP chief pointed out that swarms of locust had entered Kashmore, Larkana, as well as Umerkot and Thar. He warned that locust had moved fertile breeding ground in the desert in India before heading back to Sindh and Punjab and even might spread to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

“Any delay in the implementation of NAP decided at a meeting between the federal and Sindh government would mount grave danger to the agriculture as well as the overall economy,” said the PPP chairman.

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The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has already warned that locust attack can inflict losses to the tune of Rs600 billion to Pakistani economy if the government failed to take timely and full-fledged action.

Bilawal mentioned that a meeting between the federal and the Sindh governments had decided that under NAP at least 12 planes would be hired for aerial spray in the Balochistan – the entry point of locust swarms.

“But the federal government did not hire these planes. Only one aircraft and three helicopters are being operated in Balochistan, which cannot control the swarms,” he said. It was the responsibility of the Plant Protection Department of the federal government to carry out aerial spray while Sindh government had provided pesticides and vehicles, he added.

“Last year despite our pleas, provinces were left at the mercy of locusts. If the federal government failed to act this time it will be another disaster in the making,” he said, asking the federal government to “wake up from slumber” and implement NAP against locust attack without any delay.

The threat of locust attack was also discussed in the National Command and Operations Center (NCOC) meeting on Friday. The participants underlined the need for creating a dedicated forum to effectively combat the imminent threat of locust through strong inter-provincial coordination.

“There is a dire need to set up a forum like the NCOC, where all the key stakeholders can share information and resources to fight the locusts in an effective manner,” Planning Minister Asad Umar said, while chairing the meeting.

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Food Security Minister Syed Fakhar Imam informed the NCOC that a meeting of all the key stakeholders was held at his ministry recently to evolve a comprehensive strategy against the locust issue. “All the resources are being mobilised to save agriculture from the locust swarms,” he said.

Umar underscored the importance of adopting the ‘TSE’ (tracking, spraying and elimination) policy against the locust. The provincial agriculture ministers, who also participated in the meeting through video link, said the locust should be contained in Balochistan to save other provinces from the menace.

Minister of State for Health Dr Zafar Mirza and Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Covid-19 Dr Faisal Sultan apprised the meeting about the overall situation of coronavirus pandemic. They also explained the reasons behind off-vent deaths of the infected patients in the country.

Dr Mirza said home quarantine of the coronavirus positive patients had been recommended in Punjab like other provinces. The meeting was also attended by NCOC National Coordinator Lt-Gen Hamooduz Zaman, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Moeed Yusuf.

With input from APP

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