Delhi to try out artificial rain over pollution woes

Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai meets with experts regarding cloud seeding; report from IIT Kanpur to be submitted to Supreme Court seeking approval; cloudy days expected on November 20, 21

November 08, 2023 10:22 pm | Updated November 09, 2023 10:34 pm IST - New Delhi:  

Volunteers seen with an anti air pollution mask as the air quality continues to remain in the ‘severe’ category in Delhi and surrounding cities.

Volunteers seen with an anti air pollution mask as the air quality continues to remain in the ‘severe’ category in Delhi and surrounding cities. | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai on Wednesday announced that the national capital would be attempting to induce artificial rains to tackle the rising pollution. The Minister cleared the confusion over the implementation of the vehicle rationing scheme. He said the government would implement the scheme after it submitted two case studies to the Supreme court and was awaiting its go-ahead to implement the proposal.

Also read: Delhi government defers odd-even scheme implementation till SC reviews effectiveness

Mr. Rai met with experts from IIT Kanpur regarding cloud seeding for the rains. The Delhi government would be receiving a detailed proposal from IIT Kanpur which would be submitted to the Supreme Court. According to estimates, it would be cloudy on November 20-21 and if an approval came through, the plan could be executed on those days.  

Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena in a post on X (formerly Twitter) also spoke about the meeting with IIT Kanpur. He said: “A delegation from CII & IIT, Kanpur met to discuss the possibility of cloud seeding - artificial rain in the capital for mitigating the prevalent air pollution. Enquired about the effectiveness of the technology and asked them to submit a concrete proposal.” 

Equipment ready

“The equipment which will be used for this have been stocked. We have an aircraft, clouding seething equipment as well as our own solution, and our team has been closely monitoring the cloud situation as well,” Professor Sachchida Nand Tripathi, member, steering and monitoring committee, National Clean Air Programme, IIT Kanpur said.  

The Delhi government would be proposing this plan to the Supreme Court on Friday and a request for cooperation from the Centre through the apex court as well. Cloud seeding has been experimented in other parts of the country as well, including Maharashtra.  

Another important measure that has already been announced by the Delhi government is the implementation of the vehicle ration scheme or the odd-even scheme. Mr. Rai said the AAP-led government would be submitting studies from the Energy Policy Institute of the University of Chicago and the Delhi Technical University regarding the scheme.  

The Supreme Court has been closely monitoring the pollution situation and provided several measures for the same. On Tuesday, the court had questioned the effectiveness of the Delhi government’s car rationing scheme, aimed at curbing vehicular pollution, and referred to it as “all optics”. The court has asked the Delhi government to look at short-term solutions to mitigate the situation in the capital on an immediate basis.  

Dr. Anant Sudarshan, a Non-Resident Visiting Scholar at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), said: “Our study found that in the January round of odd-even, pollution fell by about 14% during the day relative to NCR regions where odd-even was not in force. However, because the vast majority of pollution currently owes to crop burning not vehicles, there is no reason to expect similar percentage decreases from odd-even in November. Policies like congestion pricing that reduce vehicle use will be useful outside the crop burning period.” 

The odd-even scheme entails allowing vehicles whose registration number end in even digits to ply on even dates and those with odd last digits to ply only on odd dates. On odd days, only vehicles with licence plates ending in 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 will be allowed, while on even days, vehicles ending in 0, 2, 4, 6, and 8 will be allowed to operate. 

Meanwhile, the air quality of Delhi worsened to “severe“ category on Wednesday, from the upper end of the “very poor” category on Tuesday. Delhi’s 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) was 426 at 4 p.m. Wednesday, up from 395 on Tuesday, as per the CPCB’s daily official bulletin, which is considered as the day’s official AQI. A higher value of AQI means an increase in air pollution.  

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