With deficit rainfall in this year's monsoon as well, the Karnataka government has decided to take up cloud seeding to bring in showers.
On Tuesday, the cabinet approved the proposal to conduct the cloud seeding project. The project will be undertaken within a span of 60 days at a cost of Rs. 30 Crore by Hoysala Projects Pvt Ltd.
According to reports, State Law Minister TB Jayachandra spoke to media persons about the project, following a cabinet meeting that gave nod to the proposal.
Multiple reports state that the project will be undertaken on the river basins of Cauvery, Malaprabha and Tungabhadra. The New Indian Express reports that the development commissioner of the government will oversee the implementation of the project.
â€śTwo agencies â€“ Hoysala Projects Pvt Ltd and Kyathi Climate Modification Consultants had come forward to take up the project. It has been decided to award the project to Hoysala Projects. It will be taken up within 60 days in three major catchment areas: Cauvery, Malaprabha and Thungabhadra Rivers,â€ť Law minister TB Jayachandra was quoted as saying by Bangalore Mirror.
What is cloud seeding?
A weather modification experiment, cloud seeding is a way of inducing rainfall from rain-bearing clouds using chemicals. However, experts have consistently argued that cloud seeing is not a sure shot way to bring rains, and that it was not a proven technology.
With the Karnataka State government mulling the possibilities of resorting to cloud seeding in the past few weeks, there have been several media reports that shed light to the practicality of the experiment. In a report by Akram Mohammed published in The New Indian Express, Dr H S Shivaramu, Professor and Head, Agrometeorology Department, University of Agricultural Sciences argues that cloud seeding has a success rate of only 20 per cent.
Another argument against carrying out cloud seeding is the speed of the wind that is likely to bring rains to a different place, if cloud seeding is carried out.
B Puttanna, former director, Indian Meteorological Department told TNIE: â€śDuring the first few months of monsoon season, strong westerlies might affect the process. So, if seeding is taken up this month, it is very likely that rainfall will occur in some other place or even oversea. If such an exercise has to be carried out too, itâ€™s advisable to do it when the wind speed of westerlies reduces,â€ť he said.
This is not the first time a state government has proposed to carry out cloud seeding to bring in the rains, and the lack of success in the previous instances is also another factor why some are against carrying out cloud seeding. For instance, the SM Krishna government had carried out cloud seeding in 2002, but it had failed to bring in much rain. Bangalore Mirror reports that even in the state cabinet, the uncertainty over the success rate has been a concern.
â€śDespite intense cloud seeding, there was no trace of rains in 2002. When we questioned the agencies after two days of seeding, they told us that it has benefitted the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh!â€ť a senior minister in the Siddaramaiah cabinet who had personally witnessed the experiment then revealed to BM.
Another article published by The Indian Express in 2015 points out that cloud seeding is no substitute to monsoon. It can only bring rain to smaller areas, that can only supplement natural monsoon, the article states.
While cloud seeding was first experimented in 1940s, and several Indian states including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have experimented with it since the 1980s, the results have been largely unsatisfactory.
However, while Kerala had proposed cloud seeding in March this year, the Centre had denied permission to the state to carry it out. While the state had proposed the idea after facing the worst drought in 115 years, the Centre was not convinced about the feasibility of the experiment and expressed concern over the ability of the existing technologies to bring in rains.