NEW DELHI: The Delhi government’s plan to curb pollution through aerial sprinkling of water will not take off this year. Sources in the Ministry of Civil Aviation confirmed that the idea has been put on hold by state-run helicopter operator Pawan Hans Limited (PHL), which has told the ministry that it does not have the equipment to carry out the exercise. Ministry sources, however, said that it may devise a long-term strategy for aerial sprinkling of water by seeking advice from environmentalists, health and aviation experts.
A senior official in the ministry said the issue was discussed in meetings between officials of the ministry, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Delhi government and PHL. “There are a lot of reasons why Delhi government’s proposal does not seem feasible. For this kind of exercise, special helicopters are required where equipment can be fixed for aerial sprinkling, but PHL does not have such helicopters. The other constraint for aerial sprinkling is the existence of numerous ‘no-fly zones’ in the city,” an official from the Ministry of Civil Aviation said. He added that no civil aircraft in India is capable of carrying out the kind of sprinkling required for bringing down pollution levels.
In an earlier meeting on the same issue, Pawan Hans Limited had made it clear that the possibility of aerial sprinkling by helicopters was not possible immediately due to poor visibility. A senior official from PHL said, “We have not rejected the idea but we have conveyed to the aviation ministry as well as the Delhi government that this idea cannot be implemented anytime soon. A lot of arrangements need to be made for aerial sprinkling and these arrangements will take some time.”
Mi-17 helicopters and BQ-100 Beechcraft have been used for dousing forest fires and cloud seeding respectively. Cloud seeding is a weather modification technology where “rain” is created in drought affected areas. In August this year, cloud seeding was carried in some parts of Karnataka to deal with severe drought.
The Delhi government had planned to make use of Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s air-ambience fund to carry out sprinkling to settle dust and pollutants after the capital saw seven straight days of severe air quality, with the Air Quality Index touching 486 (the normal is under 100). Delhi Environment Minister Imran Hussain had written to his Union counterpart Harsh Vardhan last month, asking him to propose to the civil aviation ministry that helicopters be used for this purpose.