Stage set for cloud-seeding in Anantapur

Hyderabad Aug. 26. The much talked cloud-seeding operations for making rain will take place for a duration of 150 "flying hours'' in the skies of the Hindupur area of Anantapur district.

The operations, slated for commencement tentatively from September 1, will span over three months partially covering both the South-West and North-East monsoons, the first ending by September-end and the latter starting from October 1. Past experience shows that rain-bearing clouds are best sighted in the district during September but the experiment will be extended into October-November for taking advantage of the North-East monsoon which covers only Rayalaseema in the State.

A study shows that clouds travel at 10 to 30 kmph over Hindupur, while the area itself contains the necessary moisture around this season, both pre-requisites for the experiment. Anantapur still suffers a 45 per cent deficit rainfall even after the recent heavy rain in the rest of the State.

A number of other dry districts are queuing up for the benefit and the most insistent among them is Cuddapah whose Collector has already addressed three letters to the Government.

The financial aspect is encouraging as, under the agreement signed last week, the Government needs to pay only $500 per "flying hour'' amounting to Rs. 23,000, to the American firm, Weather Modification Inc. This includes the hiring charges of the plane, the crew, fuel and the taxes payable to the Central and State Governments. The initial estimate made by K. Bhagyatha Reddy, Chief Engineer, Minor Irrigation, who heads the Mission, is that the total expenditure may touch Rs. 4 crores, and that the State may end up saving Rs. 3 crores out of Rs. 7 crores set aside for the purpose.

According to sources in the Government, this is due to the availability of the specific radar for use "free of cost '' to Andhra Pradesh installed by the company in Bangalore for cloud-seeding in Karnataka. Otherwise, the radar would have cost at least Rs. 2.5 crores. The arrangements for the Anantapur experiment have also become hassle-free and readymade as the State stands to gain out of the infrastructure positioned for Karnataka.

The "downpour,'' said to have been achieved within 20 minutes of the cloud-seeding at Rajanukunta in Karnataka on August 18, came as a morale- booster for AP. The experiment was first proposed by the Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, but the green signal came following advice by experts and a report by J. V. M. Naidu of the Cyclone Warning Centre and T. Shivaji Rao, an environmenalist, both from Visakhapatnam.

They started the report with a slogan aiming against antagonists "God makes clouds, clouds give rain, but seeding increases rain.'' They recalled the "success'' story of Vincent Schaefer who enhanced rainfall by 20 per cent over Massachusetts in 1946, of Visakhapatnam on October 12 to 14, 2002 with a gain of 3.2 tmcft with the cost being mere 0.2 paise per cubic metre of water, and of the Anantapur's own in July-August 1995 leading to an increase by 20 per cent over Kothigutta, Kalyandurg, Rayadurg and Penukonda.

The Government has formed three teams, each with four officials, to be posted at the Bangalore airport for maintaining the logbook recording the arrival and departure of the plane.

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