Cloud of doubt over cloud seeding idea planted in budget

Experts not convinced about success as past experiments failed

Cloud of doubt over cloud seeding idea planted in budget
The state budget has proposed cloud seeding at a cost of Rs 30 crore, despite failed attempts in the past. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced cloud seeding, in the backdrop of five consecutive droughts. However, senior officials and experts from India Meteorological Department, Karnataka State Natural Disaster Management Centre (KSNDMC), Revenue department and IISc are unanimous that the experiment has not been successful in the past. “No experts have been consulted before announcing the plan,” said a senior official in the water resources department.

A committee comprising officials from KSNDMC, revenue and water resources departments has been formed for the purpose. The committee has estimated that each attempt will cost the exchequer around Rs 15 lakh and the allocated Rs 30 crore is not sufficient. This includes hiring mobile radars to assess the density of vertical cumulonimbus clouds (rain-bearing clouds) and the wind, besides a helicopter and helipad. The government will also have to hire experts with patented software to study the weather daily for 15 days before finalising the location. The government is also seeking the help of experts from Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune.

“The demand for cloud seeding is increasing the world over and the fad is catching up in India too,” the official said. According to water resources officials, cloud seeding was done in 2002-03 when S M Krishna was chief minister, but it failed.

When Jagadish Shettar was chief minister, in 2012-13, cloud seeding was again done, but it rained in areas bordering Andhra Pradesh. In 2013, 2015 and 2016, the government thought about it, but did not implement it. In 2014, when it was done in Madikeri, it rained and the farmers were agitated as they suffered severe crop loss. “The best time for cloud seeding is May-June (end of pre-monsoon and onset of monsoon), but then, one cannot say whether the rain is because of cloud seeding or natural factors.

“The world over, it has been noted that the success rate is between 10% and 15%,” said a KSNDMC official. The KSNDMC has suggested that the exercise be done in catchment areas where rainfall is needed to increase water storage. A decision on the location for cloud seeding will be taken after the IMD releases the rainfall forecast on April 15 and in June, it is said.

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