The Bell 206-B3 helicopter, having a pesticide carrying capacity of 250 litres in one trip, will fly for Air Force Station at Uttarlai, Barmer. It’ll then be deployed for locust control operations in desert area of Barmer, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Jodhpur and Nagaur.
“The helicopter with spray equipment can cover about 25 to 50 hectares of area in one flight,” said an agriculture ministry official.
The move comes at a time when the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has noted that the locust 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.
Technical officers of four South-West Asian countries – Afghanistan, India, Iran and Pakistan – have been holding virtual meeting on weekly basis ever since the locust incursion was noticed in the region in March. So far, 15 such meetings have taken place for coordinated action this year.
The use of helicopter in India will be in addition to the deployment of drones for this purpose. India is also the first country in the world to use drones for locust control.
“Twelve drones have already been deployed for locust control in Jaisalmer, Barmer, Jodhpur, Bikaner and Nagaur. Drone is effective for tall trees and inaccessible areas. One drone can cover 16-17 hectares of area in one hour. Thirteen more drones will be deployed in due course,” said the official.
India had this year started the locust control operations, using ground spray equipment, on April 11. The control operations have, so far, been done in 2,33,487 hectares in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Bihar.
The Union agriculture ministry has claimed that “no significant” crop losses have been reported, so far, in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Haryana. “However, some minor crop losses have been reported in some districts of Rajasthan,” said a note from the ministry on locust issue.
Presently, 60 control teams with spray equipment mounted vehicles and more than 200 personnel are engaged in locust control operations in different affected states.
The Centre has also extended financial assistance to states for locust control operations. Financial assistance of Rs 14 crore has been sanctioned for Rajasthan for hiring of vehicles, tractors and for purchase of pesticides. On the other hand, Rs 1.80 crore has been sanctioned for Gujarat for this purpose.
The Centre has, meanwhile, placed a supply order of five aerial spray kits with GPS trackers from a UK-based company to strengthen it locust control operations. These kits will be fitted into helicopters of Indian Air Force (IAF) and be used for air operations for control of desert locusts from September onwards.
These aerial spray (CD Atomizer) kits are in addition to the 60 ground spray equipment which India has been procuring from the same UK-based company. Fifteen of these 60 equipment have already been received and deployed on the ground for locust control operations in different states.