Karnataka set to tap the clouds yet again
176 taluks in the State are reeling under drought; planes expected to take to the skies by June 20
As 176 taluks reel under drought, the Karnataka 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.
Model code of conduct
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, including from the Director-General of Civil Aviation. 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. By calling for tenders for two years, the cost of setting up three radars to monitor cloud movements would be lowered, he said.
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.
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 a rainfall enhancement of 27.9% was achieved, apart from an extra inflow of 2.5 tmc into Linganamakki reservoir. Due to procedural delays and inconsistent monsoon season, the two planes used could only fly for 37 days. However, experts involved said the outcome addressed the scepticism behind the exercise.
Despite the positive response, the department could not obtain approvals in time for cloud seeding in 2018. Moreover, there has been no progress in two key recommendations of the evaluation committee that the State government purchase three Doppler radars worth ₹10 crore each and establish a government division for cloud seeding.