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With drones on board, Centre looks for helicopters and small airplanes to step up locust control operations

NEW DELHI: With drones already on board to control locust attack, India has now planned to deploy helicopters for aerial spray and 60 specialised insecticide sprayers from UK to kill the swarms before they invade newly sown Kharif crops in June-July.
Drones will be used to spray pesticides on tall trees and inaccessible places for effective control of locusts, while plans are afoot to deploy helicopters for aerial spray,” said Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar after reviewing the locust control operations on Thursday.
Possibility of using small airplanes was also discussed in the meeting. A committee under chairmanship of an additional secretary-rank officer has been constituted to procure goods and services for spraying insecticides through drones and airplanes.
India will get 15 imported sprayers from UK by June 11, 20 more by June 25 and remaining 25 by July 9 to ramp up its ongoing operations to control locust.
“These sprayers will be deployed in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, depending on extent of swarms’ presence, where locust control exercise is currently being done,” said an official from the ministry which through its dedicated wing – Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) – has been coordinating those efforts with the states.
So far, 43 districts in these five states have been covered with treatment of over 50,000 hectares of locust infested areas at 334 spots (mainly night resting places of the swarms).
Rajasthan has highest number of districts (21) which got such interventions followed by Madhya Pradesh (18), Gujarat (2) and Punjab and Uttar Pradesh (one each). Currently, 50 tractor/vehicle mounted spray equipment and fire-tender vehicles are deployed at various locations for locust control.
“We can step up our operations further by deploying additional sprayers from UK from next month,” said the official.
As far as use of drone is concerned, the Rajasthan agriculture department on Wednesday deployed a drone to spray pesticides on swarms of locust at Samod village of Chomu tehsil in Jaipur district. The Union agriculture ministry will deploy more drones in difficult terrain where tractor or vehicle mounted sprayers can’t be used. The ministry had got required permission from central agencies including DGCA last week. Two firms have been finalised for aerial spraying of insecticides for effective control of locust over tall trees and inaccessible areas.
As on Thursday, there are some active swarms of immature locusts in Barmer, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Bikaner, Suratgarh and Dausa districts of Rajasthan; Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh; Rewa, Morena, Betul and Khandwa districts of Madhya Pradesh and Nagpur and Amravati districts of Maharashtra.
Assuring that the affected states will be allocated additional resources and financial aid, if required, Tomar said 11 regional control rooms have been established and special contingents have been deployed along with additional manpower to check the spread of locusts.
Union agriculture secretary, Sanjay Agarwal, informed the minister in the review meeting that temporary control camps have also been set up beyond scheduled desert areas at Jaipur, Chittorgarh and Dausa in Rajasthan; Sheopur, Neemuch and Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh and Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh for locust control.
“Meanwhile, supply order for procurement of additional 55 vehicles has been placed to strengthen the control potential. Adequate stock of insecticide is being maintained (53,000 litres Malathion) with Locust Control Organisations,” said the ministry in a statement.
Currently, 47 spray equipment (21 Micronair and 26 Ulvamast) are being used for locust control.

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