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Cloud seeding should be a regular feature: Expert

By Our Special Correspondent

GADAG Sept. 17. Cloud seeding should be used for tackling drought whenever it occurs, according to Arun Patil, member of the committee formed by the Government for monitoring the project.

He told this correspondent that the success of Project Varuna over the past one month showed that cloud seeding could be taken up when required. Dr. Patil is the Principal of the Rural Engineering College, Hulkoti.

"All of us were tense on the day the project was launched. We had no idea how cloud seeding worked in practical terms, although there were several theories on its success. The wait for rain after the seeding of the clouds was agonising. When reports of rain came within 15 to 20 minutes, we heaved a sigh of relief,'' he said.

On September 10, the panel members were passing through Ranebennur en route Hubli from Davangere. They observed that clouds were gathering in the sky. The cloud-seeding aircraft just flew across and it rained heavily. "We celebrated the occasion by getting ourselves drenched,'' Dr. Patil said.

Cloud seeding is done in the areas around Bangalore with the aid of a ground-based radar at Jakkur. In North Karnataka, which is outside the range of the radar, it is taken up on the basis of visual clues. Dr. Patil said people called up with information about gathering clouds in their areas. The information received from the rain-gauge centres was collated the next day to study the impact.

He said the technology had been found to be workable, and it was time a study was taken up on its impact on agriculture, drinking water supply, and hydrology. The idea of weather modification was conceived last year, but it was not taken up then because of the delay in securing information.

By the time, the Government systematised the arrangement for experimenting with the scheme and formed the 10-member monitoring committee this year, much of the preliminary work had been done. "We started the process a bit late in the year because of the time taken to float global tenders, get quotations, and approve the party," Dr. Patil said.

He said the key element in the exercise was the study of cloud characteristics for determining the moisture content, temperature, upward/downward draft, and nuclei contents. The deficit in moisture content could be made up by using hygroscopic (water absorbing) material such as common salt. The nuclei content could be modified by using silver iodide as in Project Varuna. The project was planned after getting weather data from satellite sources, namely Meteostat and the NOAA. Another important factor to be determined was the draft to determine whether seeding had to be done above or below the cloud.

Dr. Patil said it was wrong to call the rain obtained through cloud seeding artificial. It was "real rain" induced through weather modification.

Asked why the technique had not been tried before in the State and elsewhere in the country, Dr. Patil said that it was owing to the lack of awareness about it.

It was only in the State that the problem of poor rainfall was seen from the perspective of the farmers and a bold step was taken to go ahead with the experiment.

Dr. Patil has been working on the scientific aspects of Parjanya yaga performed to propitiate the rain god. He is trying to find out the chemical composition of the material used for performing the homa and analyse the smoke to find out whether any rain-inducing material was let into the air. He has talked to the experts on the yaga at Gokarn.

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