By Muhammad Luqman
Two officials of Pakistan Plant Protection Department including a pilot were killed after a small aircraft crashed during pesticide spray against locust in Punjab province on Sunday.
The pilot and an engineer onboard the aircraft were spraying anti-locust pesticide after they got a signal of clear weather by the ground team, but about one hour after the operation, their plane crashed during the routine aerial spray, killing both of them on the spot.
According to Plant Protection Department officials, the crash happened far away from the main Rahim Yar Khan city, and ground teams of the DPP and provincial authorities were on their way to determine the cause of the crash and recover bodies of the victims.
The department had five spray aircraft including the one that crashed on Sunday.
Locust attack on crops has incurred heavy financial losses to farmers in some areas of the country over the past two years. The DPP is helping Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab provinces to control locust by spraying pesticide
Those killed have been identified as pilot Muhammad Shoaib and engineer of the Plant Protection Department Fawad Butt.
The Plant Protection Department of the federal government had provided the aircraft to the Punjab government for use in aerial spray in anti-locust operations in the province.
Swarms of locusts have eaten up green plants and shrubs in Cholistan region of Punjab and several parts of Sindh damaging standing crops and fruit orchards.
In June last year, swarms of locusts attacked cotton fields in Khairpur, Sukkur, and Ghotki. Farmers had to bear losses of hundreds of thousands of rupees due to crop loss in the attack.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in September last year had warned that the situation relating to locusts in Pakistan was “most serious” as a second generation of the insect had been bred.
By Muhammad Luqman