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

The Hindu - - SOUTH - Mo­hit M. Rao

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.

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