BENGALURU: As South-West monsoon threatens to fail in Karnataka, pushing it towards another drought year, the state has decided to resort to cloud seeding to improve rainfall. However, experts are sceptical about its success. They say cloud seeding is not ‘proven technology’ and its success is dependent on several climatic variables.
State government officials say that such a venture is inevitable as the government should take every step to avert a crisis. A tender has also been floated by the government for cloud seeding.
Dr H S Shivaramu, Professor and Head, Agrometeorology Department, University of Agricultural Sciences said that despite the state government batting for the initiative, it was not “proven technology”. He said there were several factors essential for cloud seeding to succeed. As a result, the success of cloud seeding initiatives has been just 20 percent, he said.
Since such a venture has not been successful in the past, it is not useful to take up the exercise, he said, adding that the amount spent for cloud seeding would well have been used for providing crop insurance to farmers. In this year’s budget, the state government had allocated D30 crore for cloud seeding.
Another factor affecting cloud seeding is its unpredictability, said B Puttanna, former director, Indian Meteorological Department, Bengaluru. “During the first few months of monsoon season, strong westerlies might affect the process. So, if seeding is taken up this month, it is very likely that rainfall will occur in some other place or even oversea. If such an exercise has to be carried out too, it’s advisable to do it when the wind speed of westerlies reduces,” he said.
Quoting an example of previous cloud seeding incident, he said the process could also damage crops if not done properly. “In 2012, seeding was taken up over Kodagu when there was a forecast for widespread showers. It rained well above normal limits, resulting in extensive crop damage,” Puttanna said, adding, “Cloud seeding is an outdated experiment, which has been discarded across the globe.”
V Srinivasa Reddy, Director, Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Cell, said that it was not right to dismiss cloud seeding before hand, as it can enhance rainfall in a region by 8-12 per cent. “Moreover, the number of times seeding is done is also too less t make it effective,” he said. He added that the step was inevitable as it was essential to avert a possible crisis.Prakash Kumar, an official from Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department, who is the nodal officer for seeding said that tender has been floated for the same. Date of cloud seeding will be finalised soon, he added.
WHAT IS CLOUD SEEDING
Cloud seeding is an artificial way of inducing rainfall from rain-bearing clouds. Chemicals such as silver iodide and potassium iodide are used to catalyse condensation in clouds, thereby resulting in showers.