Cloud seeding to be back in Karnataka for two monsoons

A file photo of cloud seeding under way in Karnataka in 2017.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

As 176 taluks reel under drought, the State government is hoping to influence the upcoming monsoon and capture as much water as possible from the rain clouds.

On March 8, the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department pushed a tender call for cloud seeding operations to enhance rainfall during the monsoons of 2019 and 2020. The project is expected to cost ₹50 crore each year.

Cloud seeding uses planes to spray clouds with chemicals to condense smaller particles into larger rain droplets.

Ideally, officials said, the tenders should have been out by February, giving enough time for preparation for the monsoon. However, the department managed to get the required approvals and sanction for work before the enforcement of model code of conduct on Sunday. A contractor is expected to be chosen by April-end and, officials said, the cloud-seeding planes could take to the skies by June 20.

“It takes about two and a half months for the work order, after which another 45 days may be needed for various approvals... However, as in 2017, the State government can intervene and expedite this process to less than 30 days for approval,” said Prakash Kumar, chief engineer, Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Board.

He added that by calling for tenders for two years, the cost of setting up three radars to monitor cloud movements will be lowered. This time, the department has stipulated that cloud seeding has to be carried out over 90 days, instead of 60 (as was done in 2017).

Project Varshadhare

The department is aiming to replicate the ₹35-crore ‘Varshadhare’ project two years ago that was called a success by an independent evaluation committee. Its report, submitted to the State government in 2018, estimated that rainfall was enhanced by 27.9% and there was an extra inflow of 2.5 tmcft into Linganamakki reservoir. On account of procedural delays and inconsistent monsoon season, the two planes could only fly for 37 days. However, experts involved said the outcome addressed the scepticism about the exercise.

Despite the positive response, the department could not obtain approvals in time for cloud seeding in 2018. Moreover, two key recommendations of the evaluation committee — that the State government should purchase three Doppler radars worth ₹10 crore each and that it should establish a division for cloud seeding — have seen no progress.

“The year 2017 was a success because of the coordination among the government, experts and private players implementing the project. The same team returns for monitoring and evaluation, and we hope things go well,” said V.S. Prakash, former head of the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Committee who was part of the 2017 monitoring panel. “Cloud seeding is being done in over 130 countries,and has had tremendous success in countries like China.”

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 1:20:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/cloud-seeding-to-be-back-in-karnataka-for-two-monsoons/article26489272.ece

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