THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The heavy rainfall of recent weeks has brought relief to the state’s power sector, but the jitters caused by the Southwest Monsoon’s initial sluggishness hasn’t died down yet. Not wishing to be caught on the wrong foot in future, the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) is having a serious look at the concept of artificial rain.
A KSEB directors’ meeting held this month has formed a committee to examine the possibilities of using cloud seeding techniques to increase precipitation over the power utility’s hydel reservoirs. “We are exploring the possibility. The committee has been set up with an expert from the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) as one of the members,” KSEB chairman M Sivasankar told Express.
Cloud seeding is a form of weather modification, and uses chemicals such as silver iodide, potassium iodide or dry ice to ‘seed’ clouds to increase precipitation over a selected location. Cloud seeding was done in Kerala in 1987 as part of experiments held in selected states. Today, cloud seeding is not an unusual practice, but it is not done in a systematic manner.
“Andhra Pradesh has been doing it and Tamil Nadu too. Andhra even has a Rainshadow Areas Development Department. But these states are basically doing it for irrigation and drinking water purposes. But a hydro-electric company in Victoria, Australia, has been doing it for the last 20 years for enhancing power generation,” Sivasankar said. China, Israel and the United States are into cloud seeding in a big way. China, in fact, used it famously before the start of the Beijing Olympics.
‘Rainmaking’ is an intricate process. The clouds have to traced and its water content assessed with special equipment. An aircraft - it can also be done from the ground - is then used to ‘seed’ the cloud.
That the KSEB is even thinking of cloud seeding is an indicator of how weather patterns have changed.
From a power-surplus state to one that is increasingly dependent on other states, the fortunes of Kerala’s power sector have changed drastically over the recent decades.
This southwest monsoon season, for instance, the hydel reservoirs had remained parched during the initial months. Even now, after weeks of heavy rainfall, the hydel reservoirs are only 63 per cent full.