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Eminent scientists at UHF Nauni brainstorm over efficacy of anti-hail guns

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Management of Hailstorm for Sustainable Crop Production in Himachal Pradesh 2

Solan: Hail storms are nightmares for fruit and vegetable growers of Himachal Pradesh. Hails causes huge financial losses to farmers every year. Farmers in some areas use anti-hail guns but it is very expensive. Moreover, there is no concrete data available regarding the efficiency of these guns.

Surprisingly, the government had been missing another crucial aspect that could help in the assessment of the guns: feedback from farmers. It is not sufficient to install an anti-hail gun on subsidized rates; farmers should also be aware of technical aspects so that they know how to use them most efficiently.

Though the WMO has documented that there is no physical evidence of anti-hail guns efficiency, the guns did find more utility when used in concordance with the radar.

It was revealed by Dr Anand Sharma, DGM, Indian Meteorological Department while speaking at a two-day workshop and interaction meet on ‘Management of Hailstorm for Sustainable Crop Production in Himachal Pradesh’ commenced at the Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni on Friday.

The workshop is being organized by UHF’s Department of Environmental Science in collaboration with the Department of Horticulture, Government of Himachal Pradesh.

This is the first workshop of its kind to be held in the state.


UHF Nauni workshop on anti-hail guns

The aforesaid issues were attended in the workshop along with interaction session with farmers using anti-hail guns in their areas.

The main objective of the workshop was to discuss the status of hailstorm occurrence and its impacts on mountain ecosystem,

explained Dr SK Bhardwaj, Head Department of Environmental Sciences

Eminent scientists from across the country, experts from IIT Bombay and Hyderabad, Indian Meteorological Department, DRDO along with progressive farmers from the state and representatives of private companies are also participating in the event.
Management of Hailstorm for Sustainable Crop Production in Himachal Pradesh

Dr HC Sharma, UHF Vice-Chancellor was the Chief Guest for inaugural function. Principal Secretary Horticulture (HP) RD Dhiman and Additional Director Horticulture Dr. ML Dhiman also took part in the workshop.

During the several technical sessions, deliberations on various aspects of suitable hailstorm management technologies will be held with a focus on researchable issues for ensuring the suitable livelihood of farmers and strengthening the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

Climatic changes were occurring all around the world and preparations were needed for good crop and fruit cultivation,

said Dr HC Sharma, emphasizing on the need for continuous data resource requirement for assessing the impacts of anti-hail guns on precipitation in an area.

Dr. Sharma was of the view that the indigenous technologies under the ambit of Make in India should be explored for developing cheaper anti-hail guns in the country itself and stressed on long-term research assessments of this technology.

RD Dhiman, Principal Secretary Horticulture stated that the idea behind the workshop was to get feedback from the farmers who have been working in the areas where anti-hail guns have been operational.

He said that the climatic calamities such as hailstorms lead to financial losses for the farmers and such discussions showed the state government’s commitment to finding efficient solutions. He said that the workshop was a means to evolve scientific knowhow about the most effective and efficient ways for anti-hail measures.

Dr. ML Dhiman stressed on the need to address the challenges of hailstorms in the horticulture and vegetable growing belts of the state. He advised setting up permanent structures for anti-hail nets and suggested the utility of anti-hail guns in these areas as an efficient remedial measure.

Dr. JN Sharma, UHF Director of Research focused on the apple productivity research areas on which the university scientists have been working and highlighted the utility of the workshop for tackling newer issues that the farmers were facing.
Dr Anand also stressed on the need for crop insurance and the use of internet and Kisan portal.

In the second session on the theme ‘Frequency of occurrence and impacts of hailstorms on crop production in Himachal’, Dr. Anand Sharma, DGM IMD, and Dr. Manmohan Singh, Director, Regional MET Centre Shimla, explained the phenomenon of hailstorm formation and the Cumulonimbus clouds associated with it.

Dr. Sharma said that hail caused more than a billion dollar in losses all over the world each year. He was of the view that specific prediction of hail was very difficult and a challenge that needed further research.

He suggested developing microscale models for a particular area and setting up of radars in the state to predict the possibility of hail forming cloud movements. He also discussed mitigation strategies like weather modification through the use of silver iodide and anti-hail gun.

Dr Manmohan Singh addressed the participants on the status of hailstorms in the state. He explained how the occurrence of hailstorms had a varied frequency in the months of March, April, and May in different regions of the state. He also clarified that only a third of all Cumulonimbus clouds lead to hail. He also discussed various methods of dissemination of weather data.

During the interaction session between the farmers and scientists, six progressive farmers from the areas where anti-hail guns have been operational shared their experiences about the frequency and impacts of hailstorms in their respective areas and the advantages and disadvantages of the technology.

A farmer working with an NGO in the Khaneri area of Kotkhai shared that the lack of technical guidance regarding the usage of the anti-hail gun in their area was a concern.

Lack of maintenance of anti-hail guns and high costs of anti-hail nets were other issues raised by the farmers.

Pic: Tribune (Anti-hail gun)

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Himachal: Report Forest Fires on Toll-Free Numbers 1077 and 1070

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helpline for Forest Fires in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Forest fire is a recurrent annual phenomenon in Himachal Pradesh and causes losses worth several crores every year. Dry spell and summers make forests, especially chir pine forests, highly vulnerable to forest fires. These forest fires not only damage the forest wealth but also hit wildlife and biodiversity in general. The forest department attributes most fires to human factors.

Like every year, the forest department has claimed that it is all geared up and ready to combat forest fires this year too. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Dr. Savita on Monday held a virtual review meeting with Forest Circles on preparedness for forest fires in the state.

She said that the Forest department was well prepared to fight the forest fires and a rapid forest fire fighting force and rapid response teams had been set up at forest division and range levels.

“Approximately 40,000 man-days of fire watchers would be engaged by the department in addition to existing frontline staff for preventing and combating forest fires,” she said. The state disaster control room with toll-free number 1077 at the state level and 1070 at the district level were operational for reporting of the forest fire by the local community, she informed.

Dr. Savita said messages regarding forest fire had been shared with the members of the rapid forest fire fighting force, in which approximately 50,000 volunteers had already been registered. Awareness to the community was also conducted through Nukkar Nataks, songs, speeches and other activities at different locations in the state. Besides, a massive state-level awareness program was also conducted at 45 places from 10 to 17 March 2021

She said that the department had created forest fire lines and did control burning and also constructed water storage structures in the forest areas to combat forest fires. Additional multi-utility vehicles and water loaded tankers in 80 fire-sensitive ranges had been engaged for three months. She that matter regarding Standard Operating Systems (SOPs) for requisition of helicopter services for dousing the forest fires had been sent to the Government for approval. 

Feature Photo: Unsplash@Thematthoward

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Himachal Counts 108,578 Waterbirds of 96 Species This Year With Increase in Habitat

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Annual Bird Count in Himachal Pradesh 2021

Shimla-The habitat of migratory and resident water-birds in Himachal Pradesh has gradually improved, said Forest Minister Rakesh Pathania.

The annual water-bird count at Pong Dam Lake Wildlife Sanctuary was conducted in the first of February, 2021 and the exercise was conducted under restrained conditions due to the prevailing Avian Influenza outbreak in Pong Dam Lake as well as the COVID-19 Pandemic, he said.

The exercise was conducted by Wildlife wing of Himachal Pradesh by deploying 57 staff members in 26 sections of the sanctuary for counting the water-dependent birds.

Total 108,578 birds of 96 species were counted during this year. Out of the total number, 101,431 of 51 species are water-dependent migratory birds and 6,433 of 29 species are water-dependent resident birds. As many as 714 birds of 16 other species were also recorded. The total population of the flagship species, Bar-Headed Geese, is 40,570.

The other species which have higher population count during this year are Eurasian Coot (24,163), Northern Pintail (12,702), Common Teal (8,444), Little Cormorant (3,649), Great Cormorant (3,410), Grey Lag Goose (2,297), Northern Shoveler (2,275) and Common Pochard (2,138). The species which find noticeable mention are Red Necked Grebe, Great Bittern, Lesser White-Fronted Goose, Red Crested Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Pied Avocet, Northern Lapwing, Peregrine Falcon etc. During the counting exercise, one Bar-headed Goose and one Grey Lag Goose with collars were also spotted.

This year the Annual bird count exercise assumes significance, considering the Avian Influenza outbreak in the Wildlife Sanctuary. Further, the Minister expressed satisfaction over the timely and effective containment measures taken by Wildlife Wing to control and contain Avian Influenza outbreak in the Wildlife Sanctuary.

PCCF (Wildlife) Archana Sharma and CCF Wildlife (North) Dharamshala Upasana Patial also participated and supervised the Annual Water Bird Count.

The total population of birds, as well as number of species, counted this year are marginally less as compared to last year, probably due to the impact of Avian Influenza outbreak which was first reported on 28th December 2020.

Although the total population of water birds declined during the peak of the Avian Influenza outbreak, there is a gradual increase in the total population of birds, the Minister informed.

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Himachal First State to Complete Assessment of Snow Leopard and its Wild Prey

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Snow Leopard Population Assessment in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-The assessment of snow leopard population in Himachal Pradesh has been completed by the state wildlife wing in collaboration with Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) Bangalore following the protocol aligning with the SPAI (Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India) protocols of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. Himachal Pradesh has become the first state to complete assessment of snow leopard and its wild prey.

The state has an estimated population of up to 73 snow leopards.

It is the first scientifically robust estimate of snow leopards and its prey for the State. Since snow leopard is the state animal, the study assumes great significance for Himachal Pradesh.
The exercise revealed that snow leopard density ranged from 0.08 to 0.37 individuals per 100 sq.km., with the trans-Himalayan regions of Spiti, Pin valley and upper Kinnaur recording the highest densities, both of the predator and its prey, mainly ibex and blue sheep.

This study covered the entire potential snow leopard habitat of Himachal Pradesh: an area of 26,112 sq.km., utilising a stratified sampling design. Camera trapping surveys were conducted at 10 sites to representatively sample all the strata i.e. high, low and unknown. The camera trap deployment over the mountainous terrains was led by a team of eight local youth of Kibber village and more than 70 frontline staff of HPFD were trained in this technique as part of the project. Snow leopards were detected at all the 10 sites (Bhaga, Chandra, Bharmour, Kullu, Miyar, Pin, Baspa, Tabo, Hangrang & Spiti) suggesting that snow leopards are found in the entire snow leopard habitat in Himachal Pradesh either as resident individuals of a population or as dispersing individuals navigating through these connecting habitats.

Another revelation from the study is that a bulk of snow leopard occurrence is outside protected areas, reiterating the fact that local communities are the strongest allies for conservation in snow leopard landscapes.

The NCF and wildlife wing collaborated in the effort and it took three years to complete the assessment. MoEFCC had launched the First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India, on the occasion of International Snow Leopard Day. You can read the complete protocol here.

Snow leopard is the icon of high mountains of Asia. In India, they inhabit the higher Himalayan and TransHimalayan landscape in an altitudinal range between approximately 3,000 m to 5,400 m above MSL, spanning c. 100,000 km2 in the five states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. This area contributes to about 5% of the global snow leopard range.

Snow leopards occur over a vast, relatively remote and difficult to access mountainous area. Together with their elusive nature, this makes a complete population census of snow leopards an unfeasible goal. Even their distribution remains unclear. For example, recent surveys show that they do not occur in 25 % of the area that was thought to be their range in the state of Himachal Pradesh Their density is expected to be variable in space, dependent on several factors such as habitat suitability, prey availability, disturbance and connectivity. Variation in density across space also poses the risk of biased sampling, and, indeed, most of the snow leopard population assessments conducted so far across the world are biased towards the best habitats.

Feature Photo: Pexels/Charles Miller

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