Dehradun: Uttarakhand has decided to install anti-hailguns as part of efforts to save fruit crops, especially apples, from being damaged by hailstorms.

"The Centre has already agreed in-principle to include our proposal in the National Agriculture Development Programme and as soon as it is done, the process for installation of anti-hailguns would be started," said state Agriculture Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat.

Uttarakhand put forward the proposal before the Centre during a meeting convened by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar in New Delhi recently, he said.

The anti-hailguns work with the help of a radar and fire in the air immediately after getting signals about a hailstorm.]

The principle behind anti-hail guns is to prevent the damage caused by hailstones by preventing their formation and growth by melting them all together.

An anti-hailgun can save crops in a 1-km radius. A radar can control at least 10 anti-hailguns, he said.

In the first phase of the project, the government has proposed to buy one radar and three anti-hailguns, which would be installed in Uttarkashi district, he said.

Harsil, Har-Ki-Dun and Barkot have also been identified for installation of anti-hailguns, as fruits are grown in clusters in these high-altitude areas, he said. Later, the programme would be extended to other areas also.
The move came after apple, pear and other fruit crops suffered heavy damage at the flowering stage due to hailstorms in high-altitude areas in May this year.

According to an estimate, around 50-60 per cent of the apple crop in the state was destroyed this year due to hailstones, said Horticulture Additional Secretary G S Pande.

Other fruits were also damaged severely due to the hailstorm, he added.

Pande said hailstones damage the fruit crops almost every year.  In Uttarakhand, 32,000 hectares of land is under apple cultivation, he added.

Rawat said one radar and three anti-hailguns would be imported from the US at a cost of around Rs 4 crore, as the technology is only available in that country.

Rawat said anti-hailguns are environment-friendly as well, since no chemicals are used for firing.

Weathermen, however, are wary about the idea of installing anti-hailguns, stating that it may not be a foolproof system. "It has to be seen as up to what height the radar can pick up signals of hailstorm. It has also to be ensured that the system should not aggravate the problem instead of saving the crops," said Anand Sharma, the Director of the Met Department here.

Nevertheless, the minister is optimistic about the success of the anti hailguns, stating that the system has been used in Himachal Pradesh for the past one year.

Himachal Pradesh had installed the system a year ago in the Khara Patthar area, in Shimla district, and it has given successful results, Rawat said.