Tribune News Service
New Delhi, June 30
Battling a devastating locust outbreak, the Central Government is strengthening its control capabilities through air power-drones, helicopters and aircraft.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Tuesday flagged off a Bell helicopter with spray equipment.
To be initially stationed at Air Force Station Uttarlai, Barmer, the helicopter will be deployed for locust control in the desert areas of Barmer, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Jodhpur and Nagaur. The helicopter with a single pilot operation has a pesticide carrying capacity of 250 litres in one trip and can cover about 25 to 50-hectare area in one flight, according to an official statement.
Meanwhile, an order had been placed for five aerial spraying machines from a UK-based company. Once these are received, they would be deployed in the IAF helicopters and pressed for locust control.
Along with ground equipment such as sprays and vehicles, deployment of helicopters in locust control operations follows the need to strengthen air control capabilities through drones, helicopters and aircraft, the Government said, adding that it was the first time that drones had been used for such operations.
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 summer-breeding areas along the Indo-Pakistan border. In Pakistan, swarms have already started laying eggs in Sindh and are also present in the Indus Valley.
Virtual meetings of the technical officers of the South West Asian countries (Afghanistan, India, Iran and Pakistan) had taken place on a weekly basis, the government said
So far, 15 SWAC-TOC meetings have been done this year. Technical information related to locust control in the region is being shared during the meetings.
An Empowered Committee finalised the firm for deploying the helicopter for aerial spray in the desert areas after getting all clearances from the DGCA and the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
It is after a long gap of 26 years that India saw a locust attack, the Agriculture Minister said.
“It was estimated that this year, there would be a greater locust problem. The government is in full preparedness and all state governments have been alerted and are working in close coordination with the Centre,” he said.
Locusts fly during the day and settle down only after dark in the evening. According to experts, broadly four species of locusts are found in India — desert locust, migratory locust, Bombay locust and tree locust. The desert locust is considered the most destructive.
The “worst locust outbreak seen in a quarter of a century” in India is yet another example of global warming/climate change.
“Climate change is facilitating the breeding and the movement of locusts. Untimely rains and increased cyclonic activity have helped them breed faster. December had never seen a locust attack but in 2019, there was one. The warning was available well in advance and there was enough time for India to be prepared,” says agricultural policy expert Devinder Sharma.
Several waves are expected until early July due to spring breeding in southern Iran and southwest Pakistan.
Locusts thrive in wet conditions and outbreaks often follow floods and cyclones. Heavy rain leads to the growth of vegetation in arid areas, providing locusts with conditions needed to develop and reproduce.
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