India ropes in drones to fight locust plague

RAJASTHAN – In their latest efforts to fight the locust plague afflicting India, authorities in Jaipur despatched drones to lend a helping hand to the operations of vehicles, tractors, fire engines and two falcon sprayers already on the ground in several district across the country.

Drones were deployed in Rajasthan districts – Jaisalmer, Barmer, Bikaner, and Nagaur – along with tractor-mounted sprayers, fire engines and falcon sprayers which were also used in, Sri Ganganagar, Jaipur, Ajmer – where drones were not used.

The operation to fight locusts also took place in Lalitpur district of Uttar Pradesh and Panna in Madhya Pradesh. Other operations have been operations have taken place in over 80 districts in Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh.

The current infestation of desert locusts has painted the skies black in Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, South Asia and South America, threatening harvests food security across the region. The outbreak is the worst in seventy years in Kenya and the worst in twenty-five years in Ethiopia, Somalia and India.

The plague, which began in June 2019 and has persisted through 2020, began with heavy rains in 2018 in the Rub’ al Khali of the Arabian Peninsula. In Spring 2019, swarms spread from these areas, and by June, the locusts spread north to Iran, Pakistan, and India and south to East Africa, concentrating on Horn of Africa. By the end of 2019, there were swarms in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Oman, Iran, India, and Pakistan. By June 2020, another swam appeared in South America, affecting Paraguay and Argentina.

As of April 2020, efforts to control the locusts are being hampered by ongoing restrictions in travel and shipping due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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