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State seeks policy on drought proofing

By Our Staff Reporter

BANGALORE Oct. 15. The Minister for Water Resources, H.K. Patil, today requested the Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, "to urge the Prime Minister, A.B Vajpayee, to formulate a national weather modification policy". He also wanted the Centre to establish an institute to deal specifically with weather modification as a drought prevention technique.

Mr. Patil was delivering the inaugural address at the "Cloud Seeding, Weather Modification, and Rainfall Enhancement Workshop'' held at the National Institute for Advanced Studies here.

The workshop, organised by the Department of Water Resources, was to discuss and make recommendations for improving the State's cloud seeding operation, Project Varuna, which commenced on the August 25. The operation is being conducted by the State Government together with FARGO, America's largest weather modification company, at a cost of Rs, 7.58 crores. Local farmers have also been involved in the operation, giving advice on which areas should be cloud seeded and how often.

So far, the operation has yielded encouraging results with the areas covered increasing substantially. Aircraft operating from Bangalore (Jakkur) airfield, the Indian Air Force airfield in Bidar, Hubli, and Belgaum have benefited regions such as Chitradurga, Bellary, Koppal, Bidar, and Bijapur. Mr. Patil said the success of the Karnataka operation "warrants a serious look at this technology as a long-term weapon in the armoury of water resources management".

Karnataka accounts for 23 per cent of the drought-prone area of the country. Drought has afflicted the State now for three consecutive years, making life miserable for many farmers. Other States which regularly experience drought include Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, and Rajasthan.

Dr. Roelof Bruintjes from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Colorado, U.S., and a principal scientist on the Karnataka cloud seeding project said, "It is recommended that a coordinated programme be developed in India to conduct a sustained research effort in the area of cloud seeding for the enhancement of atmospheric water resources and understanding inadvertent atmospheric effects." Mr. Krishna agreed to Mr. Patil's request to ask the Prime Minister to consider weather modification as a national policy saying, "a policy is long overdue on drought proofing". He dismissed the idea of establishing an institute, however, saying, "A cell to make contributions to this highly specialised field would be preferable to introducing another institute to the plethora of those already in existence."

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