Residents of Delhi and the surrounding National Capital Region (NCR), who have been grappling with hazardous air quality since the beginning of this month, may soon witness a potential solution. On November 8, Gopal Rai, the Environment Minister of the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi, announced the Delhi government’s forthcoming endeavour to induce artificial rain through cloud seeding later this month.
Gopal Rai held a meeting with scientists from IIT-Kanpur to discuss the proposal on artificial rains.
Speaking in an interview, Gopal Rai said, “A meeting with the IIT Kanpur team was held today regarding the possibility of cloud seeding, i.e., artificial rain, in the wake of the pollution situation. This proposal was first presented by IIT Kanpur in that meeting. It was decided that tomorrow they would send a detailed proposal to the government.”
“Experts anticipate that such conditions could develop around November 20-21. We have asked the scientists to prepare a proposal in this regard which will be submitted to the Supreme Court,” the minister added.
The minister also mentioned that if there is 40 per cent cloud coverage, then artificial rains can be made possible.
What is Cloud Seeding?
Cloud seeding is a man-made technique designed to augment rainfall by introducing specific substances into clouds, serving diverse purposes such as mitigating droughts, averting forest fires, amplifying precipitation, and improving air quality.
In the process of cloud seeding, aircraft and helicopters disperse chemicals like silver iodide, potassium iodide, and dry ice into the atmosphere. These substances attract water vapor, culminating in the creation of rain clouds. Typically, it takes around half an hour for this method to effectively induce precipitation.
It is worth noting that this method depends on the existence of moisture-rich clouds, which can be inconsistent and difficult to forecast.
Can Artificial Rain Curb Pollution?
This weather modification method has been employed in numerous regions worldwide, particularly in areas facing water scarcity or drought. Countries like US, China, Australia, and the UAE have adopted this technology. Nevertheless, the efficacy and environmental consequences of cloud seeding are still under active research and debate.
Poor Air Quality Consequences
According to doctors, for any healthy person, a recommended AQI should be less than 50, but since the onset of winters in the national captital, the AQI has spiked beyond 400. Both short- and long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to a wide range of diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, trachea, bronchus and aggravated asthma and lower respiratory infections. In extreme cases, it even poses a risk of lung cancer.
Why Air Pollution Peaks During Winters?
In the winter, colder temperatures and slower air movement cause pollutants to linger, resulting in prolonged air pollution compared to the more efficient dispersion of pollutants during the warmer and faster-moving summer air. In Delhi-NCR, these unfavourable winter meteorological conditions, combined with local pollution sources such as vehicular emissions, stubble burning, and fireworks, culminate in hazardous air quality levels.
Government Action So Far
In response to the worsening air quality, the Delhi government on Monday decided to reintroduce the odd- even rule from November 13 to 20.
The government also announced a rescheduling of the December winter break for all schools. It will now take place from November 9 to November 18.