After a gap of almost a decade, the BJP government is planning to install more anti-hail guns to protect fruit crops, mainly apples, from hailstorms in Himachal Pradesh.
After a review meeting here on Tuesday, state Horticulture Minister Mahender Singh Thakur said that IIT Mumbai and the Dr Y.S. Parmar Horticulture and Forestry University in Nauni have jointly developed an indigenous anti-hail gun.
Keeping in view the welfare of the horticulturists, a project would be prepared to install indigenous anti-hail guns at eight to 10 places on a trial basis.
The minister said that at present, foreign made anti-hail guns are being used in the state which cost between Rs 2 and Rs 3 crore.
He said the cost of anti-hail gun could be reduced only by adopting anti-hail guns developed using indigenous technology.
He also issued directions for making timely availability of cartons to the horticulturists for selling their apples.
Earlier, the horticulture department had installed anti-hail guns in the apple growing areas of Deorighat, Kathasu and Braionghat in Shimla district in 2010 under a Rs 3.29 crore Central government-funded project to protect the crop from hailstorms during the flowering and fruit setting season.
At that time, a BJP government led by Prem Kumar Dhumal was at the helm in the state.
Later, the successive Congress governments had scrapped the project, saying the guns were not environment-friendly and disturbing the weather.
Some of the farmers are currently using the guns by installing them from their own incomes.
Anti-hail guns create shock waves to disrupt the formation of hailstones. It is being used successfully in the US, Mexico, Canada and Turkey, as also in the European countries, said experts.
According to the horticulture department estimates, hailstorms damage 20-30 percent of vegetable and fruit crops in the state every year.
Himachal Pradesh’s economy is highly dependent on horticulture, apart from hydroelectric power and tourism, with its annual fruit industry worth around Rs 3,500 crore.