China: Locust prevention kicks off

By Time of article published Jul 2, 2008

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Beijing - More than 33 000 exterminators have been dispatched to battle a locust infestation in northern China to prevent a potentially disastrous migration to Beijing during next month's Olympic Games.

The insects, which devour crops, routinely plague the Inner Mongolia region.

They have damaged 1,3-million hectares of grassland in three areas near Beijing, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday.

"To ensure a smooth Olympic Games and stable agricultural production, we have launched a full prevention plan to prevent and control further locust migration," Bao Xiang, the director of the badly hit Xilingol League grassland work station, said yesterday.

Under the plan, about 200 tons of pesticides, 100 000 sprayers and four planes will be used to stop the pest infestation.

The ministry of agriculture created a locust prevention and control plan for northern China in late May to prevent an infestation during the Olympics.

The locusts hatched in early June this year instead of July due to warmer and drier weather conditions, according to the government website of Hohhot, the regional capital. Inner Mongolia is home to one-fifth of China's grasslands.

It was not clear how serious a threat the locusts posed to Beijing.

There have been no reports of the pests flying from Inner Mongolia to the Chinese capital in recent years.

The locust extermination campaign was Beijing's latest effort to ensure that the Summer Olympics, which begin on August 8, are flawless.

As part of its preparations, the Chinese government has tightened visa procedures to keep out potential troublemakers and mobilised a 100 000-strong anti-terrorism force.

Environmental problems are also a concern in the coastal city of Qingdao, which is hosting Olympic sailing events. An algae bloom has smothered coastal waters, and officials have mobilised 10 000 workers and 1 000 boats to clear the blue-green infestation. - Sapa-AP

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