Cloud seeding and India go way back into the eighties

Does cloud seeding really help bring rains Karnataka wants to try it out yet againPTI/file photo
news Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - 11:21

Having seen a series of unsuccessful spells with cloud seeding in the past, the Karnataka Government is now planning to use the debatable weather modification technique to fight the drought, yet again. With cloud seeding having seen a record of mixed results, globally, will the exorbitant program emerge as a respite to the drought hit North Karnataka?

“The Karnataka Government has proposed the need for cloud seeding in the drought hit parts of the state. Maharashtra has already taken up the project while Karnataka might discuss this proposal in the coming 15 days,” G S Srinivas Reddy, Director of Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre, says to The News Minute.

According to a report by the Times of India, Water resources minister B M Patil was quoted saying that the program would resume only if the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah agreed to the proposal.

A weather modification procedure, cloud seeding attempts to change the amount of precipitation that falls from the clouds, by dispensing substances into the air. Srinivas explains that there are two types of cloud seeding. “Aeroplane driven cloud seeding and ground based cloud seeding (rain-rockets) are the most widely used techniques,” he says. While the traditional form of seeding is heavier on the pockets, the rain-rockets too have their own constraints. “The rain-rockets cover a very small area compared to that of the aeroplane based ones,” he says.  Around 50 such rockets would cost would cost about Rs 5,000, compared to the 15 crore worth aeroplane driven seeding programs.

The weather predictions for certain parts of the city however, seem to forecast the likelihood of rains and thundershowers in the upcoming days. But the Karnataka government holds cloud seeding as a pivotal Plan B. “A forecast at the end of the day is only a prediction. There is a fair 80% chance of the predictions coming true. But we are looking at taking precautionary measures, keeping in mind the remaining 20%,” Srinivas says. Being an elaborate 2-3 month project, cloud seeding requires the expertise of international agencies, coupled with the permission of the aeronautical department to study the nature of clouds and also the extent of the area.

Cloud seeding and India go way back into the eighties, where the Tamil Nadu government first conducted the operations to tackle severe drought in the region. However Karnataka’s first encounter with the technique was met with little success. The SM Krishna led Congress government in the state tried cloud seeding between 1999 and 2000, which was tagged unsuccessful, if not for a few spells of showers in North Karnataka, followed by 2 more experiments in the late 2000s. 

“The efficacy of the technique also depends on when they plan to seed the cloud,” says GK Bhatt, Professor for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, IISC, Bangalore. He also urges the need for ‘radar-evaluation’, which would help estimate the moisture in the clouds. “Radar evaluation is still not prevalent in Karnataka. Until this facility is introduced, cloud seeding would not be accurate,” he continues.

The technique having seen mixed results, internationally, the man behind the rainwater club in Bangalore urges the need for a third party monitor in the state. “In most countries, cloud seeding is undertaken by international firms, who themselves announce its effectiveness. This is where third party observation comes into play,” Vishwanath Srikantaiah says. “Also, it is not important if it rains. It is important to know what we have to do with the rain,” he smiles, stressing on rain water percolation.


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