04:01 GMT05 July 2020
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    New Delhi (Sputnik): Locust invasion is not a new phenomenon in India, however the intensity and the early onset of the wave in the country has never been this severe in the past 26 years. While states are trying to minimise the agricultural damage caused by the insect by deploying drones, the swarm of the migratory pest is all set to reach Delhi.

    While the majority of the northern Indian states are battling an unprecedented wave of crop-munching locusts, the Delhi government on Friday held a meeting to prepare a plan to battle the menace.

    Soon after the meeting, an advisory detailing the preventive measures for a “probable locust attack”, for which an alarm was sounded in the national capital earlier this week, was rolled out.

    Delhi’s Urban Development Minister Gopal Rai told media that the government will soon run an awareness campaign for the residents of the national capital and farmers. An advisory has also been issued for the spraying of pesticides.

    While the attack is more prevalent and intense in states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, also known as the agricultural powerhouse of the country, Delhi also has stretches of farming fields.

    Drones Tackle The Mess

    Indian states such as Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are already deploying drones for spraying pesticides and tracking the swarm of the crop-munching insect, but a fresh alert has been sounded in nearly eight states, which are also looking to adapt the technology.

    Agnishwar Jayaprakash, Founder, Garuda Aerospace, a UAV and MRO services firm, tells Sputnik that drones help in being pre-emptive in the states on which an attack looms large.

    "We are about to deploy drones near Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) as locusts are headed that way. We have also kept teams in Andhra & Tamil Nadu on standby to deal with pre-emptive measures as well as combative measures when locusts do arrive," Jayaprakash said.

    Uttar Pradesh has been on alert even before the onset of the locusts in the country. Awareness campaigns were conducted for farmers in the state as the swarm can be detrimental to the sugarcane crops.

    Explaining how drones are useful in battling the swarm of locusts, the founder said that when they receive information from agriculture department officials about the approaching locust swarm, they either attack them or lay a covering/coating of pesticides the farms before they arrive.

    A swarm of locusts, which can devour food consumed by 2,500-3,500 people in a day, can only be destroyed once it settles during the night. Chemical process such as spraying pesticides has been regarded as one of the most efficient way of annihilating the insect.

    However, Garuda emphasises that they are using a proprietary chemical which will not only kill locusts "but will ensure that they will be able to use them as manure, after they die."

    The swarm of locusts generally enters in India during June-July, but it happened early this year. The unprecedented wave that has been travelling from the Gulf nations, Mideast countries and the Horn of Africa, entered Iran, Pakistan and later Indian states that share a border with Pakistan.

    The wave has been termed a second plague as it has destroyed food production in western India. India has been in touch with Iran and Pakistan to contain the infestation. The government is also working in coordination with state governments to deal with the issue.

    Meanwhile, the United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organisation has estimated loses for winter crops (Kharif) and summer crops (Rabi) at $2.2 billion and $2.88 billion, respectively.

    Locust Alert For Indian Pilots

    Meanwhile, stating that the locusts are generally found on lower levels, posing a threat to aircraft in critical landing and take off phase, India's aviation regulator Director General of Civil Aviation has issued an alert.

    It points out that a locust swarm can lead to erroneous instrument readings and impact pilots' forward vision. and has urged air traffic controllers and pilots to share information on locust swarms with the authorities if they sight any during a flight.


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