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Inner Mongolia fights rampant locusts
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Inner Mongolia in north China is mobilizing 33,000 people, including 1,100 technical staff, to wipe out a plague of locusts in the past two weeks, Gao Wenyuan, the regional Grassland Work Office's director, told Xinhua on Tuesday.

According to Gao, five regional specialized teams had also rushed to the affected areas to help with pest eradication.

The region's three areas close to Beijing have 1.3 million hectares of grassland suffering locust plague, including 560,000 hectares severely hit.

"The first generation locusts this year in the areas have already hatched," Gao said. "The harm they do is obvious."

Locusts are a major destructive pest on grasslands. Locusts have been afflicting large swathes of grassland every year in Inner Mongolia, which has about 78 million hectares of grassland, or one fifth of the country's total.

In August, the grassland region will encounter a peak of second generation locusts. However, there have been no reports of large swarms of the pest flying from the region to Beijing in recent years.

The regional government has set up a temporary coordination team for joint prevention of locusts in the areas. A special fund of 4 million yuan (570,000 U.S. dollars), pesticides and large spraying machinery have been allocated to the plagued areas for the eradication of locusts, said Gao.

The region has prepared 200 tonnes of pest control chemicals, more than 100,000 big and small sprayers and booked four planes for locust eradication. Three specialized locust control teams have been organized in Xilingol, Ulanqab and Chifeng, three plagued areas in central and eastern Inner Mongolia.

Bao Xiang, director of the Xilingol League grassland work station, told Xinhua the league's locust-plagued grasslands increased by 200,000 hectares in ten days to 530,000 hectares on June 25 with nearly half severely plagued.

The league had sprayed 40 tonnes of pesticides and mobilized 126 large and small sprayers for locust eradication on 240,000 hectares of grassland, according to Bao.

Baotou City in central Inner Mongolia has rented two planes for locust prevention on 60,000 hectares of grassland.

Herdsmen have also joined the operation. Siqin, a Mongolian living in the south of Xilingol, said each of the 50-odd chickens she raised could eat more than 100 locusts every day.

"The chickens not only produce eggs, but also serve in locust control," she said.

Like Siqin, many herdsmen in the region raise chickens or ducks partly for eradication of locusts on the grassland they live on.

To handle the possible locust plague, the Ministry of Agriculture had formulated in late May an emergency plan for locust control in Beijing's surrounding areas, ordering concerted efforts from Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Hebei and Tianjin.

In late June, the ministry issued an urgent notice demanding grasslands pest control agencies have on-duty workers round-the-clock and make weekly reports of the pest plague situation to authorities to ensure timely control.

(Xinhua News Agency July 1, 2008)

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