Locusts, the little evil wreaking havoc on crops in India, will be now tackled with a ‘Bell Helicopter’ with spray equipment to spit pesticide.
Union Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on June 30 flagged off a Bell Helicopter with a pesticide-carrying capacity of 250 litres in one trip for locust-control. It can cover about 25 to 50 hectares of area in one flight.
According to a ministry statement issued on Tuesday, the helicopter will fly for Air Force Station at Uttarlai, Barmer where it will be stationed initially, and from there, will be deployed for locus-control in desert areas of Barmer, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Jodhpur and Nagaur.
The Bell 206-B3 helicopter is set to be deployed for aerial spray in desert areas after getting all the clearances from Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Narendra Tomar said that last year the locust attack took place after a long gap of 26 years. It was already estimated that this year there would be greater locust problems, but the government has been fully prepared and working in close coordination with the states.
“Deployment of machines, vehicles and manpower has been increased and concerned states are utilising SDRF funds to tackle the problem. Drones have been used for the first time for locus-control and today aerial spraying of insecticides with the use of helicopters has also been launched,” Tomar said.
The minister also informed that order has been placed for five more aerial spraying machines from a UK-based company, and once these are received, they will be deployed in IAF helicopters and pressed into operation for locus-control.
Till now 12 drones have been deployed for locus-control in Jaisalmer, Barmer, Jodhpur, Bikaner and Nagaur.
India has become the first country in the world to use drones for locust-control after finalising the protocols. Use of Drones has added one additional dimension as it is effective for tall trees and in inaccessible areas.
A drone can cover 16-17 hectare area in an hour and up to 70-hectare area in four hours. MoCA has further relaxed the terms and conditions of the conditional exemption granted for drones in anti-locust operations and permitted the use of engine-powered drones up to 50 kg and during nights.
As of now, a major strategy of locust-control is being monitored through 60 control teams with spray equipment-mounted vehicles, while more than 200 Central government personnel are engaged in such operations in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
As per the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s locust status update of June 27, swarms that accumulate in northern Somalia are likely to migrate across the Indian Ocean to the summer breeding areas along the Indo-Pakistan border. In Pakistan, swarms have already started laying eggs in Sindh and are present in the Indus Valley.
To strengthen locust-control capabilities in India, 10 ground spray equipment have been imported from Micron, UK, in January and 15 equipment in June. Additional 45 ground spray equipment will reach India in July. Meanwhile, Locust Circle Offices have more than 100 ground control equipment by July.