Himachal to buy anti-hail guns for crop protection

June 6th, 2009 - 3:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, June 6 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh is floating global tenders for purchase of anti-hail guns to protect the fruit crop from hailstorms that are common in the state, an official said Saturday.
“We (the state government) have decided to float global tenders for the purchase of anti-hail guns to protect the fruit crop from vagaries of weather like hailstorms,” state Horticulture Minister Narender Bragta told IANS.

“It’s a first of its kind initiative in the country to shield the fruit crop that every year suffers damage due to hailstorms. These (guns) will be installed in fruit-growing belt of Shimla, Kullu, Mandi and Chamba districts,” he said.

The guns send shock waves into the pressure areas where hail clouds are formed and puncture them resulting in rain instead of the damaging hail.

A single gun can cover over 300 hectares. The guns are eco-friendly as the gases released from them do not add to the greenhouse effect.

According to horticulture department estimates, every year hailstorms damage 20-30 percent of vegetables and fruit crops in the state.

Horticulture director Gurdev Singh said: “We had sent a proposal to the central government to sanction Rs.27 crore (Rs.270 million) for the installation of 40 anti-hail guns in the fruit belt. The centre has allowed the state government to take up the initiative as a pilot project and has given an approval for the sanction of Rs.3 crore (Rs.30 million) for this purpose.

“By installing the anti-hail guns, we will able to protect fruit and vegetable crop worth Rs.45-50 crore (Rs.450-500 million) annually. Presently, farmers are using anti-hail nets to protect their crops but these are expensive,” Singh said.

Last month, the Kotkhai, Rohru and Theog apple-growing belt in upper Shimla was badly hit by hailstorms.

Mohanlal Khimta, an apple grower from Rohru, said: “We are keeping our fingers crossed as frequent change in climatic conditions is affecting our crop. Last month’s hailstorms have badly damaged the apple crop.”

Spain-based firm SPAG last year gave a demonstration to the state government about hail control systems comprising guns with radar.

The economy of Himachal Pradesh is highly dependent on horticulture, apart from hydroelectric power and tourism, with the annual fruit industry worth about Rs.2,000 crore (Rs.20 billion).

Fruits like cherry, apple, pear, peach, apricot, kiwi, strawberry, olive, almond and plum are the major commercial crops of the state.

The total fruit production in the state during 2007-08 was 712 million tonnes, out of which apple production was 592 million tonnes.

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