Locust attack: Several districts in Uttar Pradesh put on alert; Drones to help control swarms
Jun. 30, 2020
Several districts of Uttar Pradesh, including Jhansi, Chitrakoot, Prayagraj, Pratapgarh, Bhadohi, Azamgarh and Ambedkar Nagar, have been facing locust attacks in the past 48 hours.
As large locust swarms attacked trees and crops across Uttar Pradesh, the state Agriculture Department said that the authorities of the neighbouring districts like Hamirpur, Banda, Fatehpur, Kaushambhi, Mirzapur, Sultanpur, Mau and Ballia have also been asked to remain alert.
Deoria, the home district of state Agriculture Minister Surya Pratap Shahi, in eastern Uttar Pradesh has also faced locust attacks. "A swarm of locusts had come to Deoria, but they descended only on the Baisila Mainuddin village. Villagers made noise and chased them away. The swarm has gone towards Kushinagar. We are spraying chemicals to kill the pests, and all districts have been put on alert," he said on last Sunday.
Shahi said insecticides are being sprayed through fire department vehicles. People have been told to make a loud noise by beating 'thaalis' and other utensils, he said. Police sirens will also be blared, and smoke would be used to chase the locusts away.
The minister said that, "the UP government has given Rs five lakh to each of the bordering districts of the state for spraying chemicals to kill locusts. Apart from this, a monitoring committee has been formed in each district under the chief development officer to continuously monitor the situation." Deoria District Magistrate Amit Kishor said a swarm spotted in the district has now moved to Kushinagar.
With the onset of monsoon in the state, Jodhpur-based Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) has intensified preparation to control the population of locusts that are hovering in the desert areas between India and neighbouring Pakistan which is now a breeding ground for the pests.
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 since it multiplies rapidly and is capable of covering 150 kilometres in a day. This insect, a type of grasshopper, can eat more than its body weight. One square kilometre of locust swarm containing around 40 million locusts, can eat as much food as 35,000 people in a day.
Experts say growing menace of desert locusts is due to the impacts of climate change, as breeding of locusts is directly related to soil moisture and food availability.
Drones in UP to help control locust swarms
Drone-as-a-Service (DAAS) provider Garuda Aerospace will soon start spraying anti-locust pesticide in several parts of Uttar Pradesh, including Noida near Delhi, said a top company official.
"We have got the order to deploy five drones for anti-locust operations from Banda University of Agriculture & Technology, Uttar Pradesh. We will be sending ten pilots for operating the drones. The mandate is to deploy the drones for a total of 50 hours at the locations specified by the University," Agnishwar Jayaprakash, Managing Director of city-based Garuda Aerospace, told the news agency IANS.
He said the company has already deployed its drones in Rajasthan in locust control operations. "This is the first time drones are being used in locust control measures in India. It is a new case scenario," Jayaprakash said.
According to him, there are two methods of spraying the pesticide— one by flying above the swarm of locust and spraying on them, while the other is to spray the pesticide beforehand on areas where locusts are expected to land. He said the state government agencies predict the flight path of the locust and give us one/two days notices on the location where the drones are to be used.
Jayaprakash said the locust hit percentage is about 70 per cent as per the state government officials. "Unlike bees that attack an adversary, locusts swarm does not attack drones. Perhaps they see it as a big bird, their enemy and avoid. Their main purpose is to eat, procreate and fly," Jayaprakash said.
Garuda Aerospace has also been carrying out drone-based anti-coronavirus sanitation orders from several municipal corporations and smart cities like Varanasi, Rourkela, Raipur, Chennai and Hyderabad.
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