India will use helicopter for the first time to spray chemicals to check locusts in five districts of Rajasthan in the next few days as fresh swarms threaten to come towards the desert state from neighbouring Pakistan.
A helicopter will be used to spray chemicals in the desert districts of Barmer, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Jodhpur and Nagaur, as per protocol, an official statement said
"The Helicopter firm, Malhotra Helicopters, has been finalised for conducting a single-pilot operation with Bell 206-B3 helicopter, having a pesticide carrying capacity of 250 litres in one trip. It can cover about 25 to 50 hectares in one flight," the statement said.
The total contract value of the helicopter is around Rs 1.25 crore for a minimum guarantee of 100 hours in 60 days and there is a incentive clause of Rs 10 lakh. The chopper will be stationed in Barmer from where it will fly to neighbouring districts as per protocol.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg news reported that a fresh swarm of desert locusts has entered Uttar Pradesh, India’s biggest sugarcane grower, via capital city Delhi and the northern state of Haryana, according to the agriculture farm ministry.
Operations to control the grasshoppers are in full swing in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Punjab and Maharashtra, the ministry said in a statement late Saturday.
Tractors, fire engines and drones are engaged in spraying pesticides to kill them, it said.
The hoppers (locusts), which normally settle on trees during the night and fly during the day, have been controlled in about 127,225 hectares (314,379 acres) of area across the country between April 11 and June 26, the ministry said.
Farmers grow mainly rice, pulses, cotton, sugarcane and soybeans on about 106 million hectares during the monsoon season between June and September.
In January, the biggest locust swarm to hit Gujarat in over a quarter of a century resulted in more than 25,000 hectares of wheat, rapeseed, cumin and potatoes being attacked, with at least a third of the crops damaged in 75 per cent of the affected areas. About 403,488 hectares had to be treated with pesticides across the country after another invasion in 2019-20, according to the farm ministry.
Desert locusts often attack North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, usually when heavy rains follow droughts. They generally enter the desert areas of India via Pakistan for breeding during the four-month rainy season that starts in June.
But, this year, pink adult swarms were reported as early as April in Rajasthan and Punjab, according to the farm ministry.