The Union government on Tuesday said it has stepped up aerial spraying capacity of pesticides by deploying Bell helicopter as well as IAF's Mi-17 choppers besides drones to fight crop-threatening desert locusts.This follows the UN body Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) July 3 update warning India to be on high alert during the next four weeks as locusts continue to breed.
On July 7, swarms of immature pink locusts and adult yellow locusts were active in Barmer, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Ajmer, Sikar and Jaipur districts of Rajasthan, Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh and in Tikamgarh districts of Madhya Pradesh, the government said in a statement.
"Aerial spraying capacity has been strengthened for anti-locust operations," the agriculture ministry said.
With drones already being used for control of locusts, the ministry said a Bell helicopter has been deployed in Rajasthan for use in the scheduled desert area as per the need. The Indian Air Force (IAF) also has conducted trials in anti-locust operation by using an Mi-17 helicopter.
"The results are encouraging. IAF started participating in anti-locust operations from 5th July by deploying the Mi-17 helicopter for aerial spraying in Jodhpur district. This is the first of its kind event in the history of locust control in India," it added.
The ministry said 15 drones are deployed at Barmer, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Nagaur and Phalodi in Rajasthan for effective control of locusts on tall trees and in inaccessible areas through spraying of pesticides. India is the first country that is using drones for locust control.
Presently, 60 control teams with spray vehicles are deployed in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, and more than 200 central government personnel are engaged in locust control operations, it said.
The country is battling the worst locust attack in 26 years and using the latest technology and equipment to stop its spread.
So far, control operations have been done in 1,43,422 hectares in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana by the Locust Circle Offices (LCOs).
The state governments have also undertaken control operations in 1,32,465 hectares area in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Bihar.
In the intervening night of July 6-7, the control operations were carried out at 22 places in 7 districts of Rajasthan and one place each in Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh and Tikamgarh districts of Madhya Pradesh by LCOs.
Besides this, State Agriculture Department of Uttar Pradesh also carried out control operations at three places in Jhansi district, while that of Madhya Pradesh State Agriculture Department at one place in Tikamgarh district, in the intervening night of July 6-7 against small groups and scattered population of locusts, it added.
According to the ministry, "No significant crop losses have been reported in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Haryana. However, some minor crop losses have been reported in some districts of Rajasthan."