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Delhi Planning To Induce Artificial Rain on 20–21 November: How Effective Is It?

Experts explain if artificial rain could be a comprehensive answer to Delhi's pollution woes.

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Fit
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On Friday, 10 November, after it rained in Delhi NCR, the region’s air quality improved significantly. The rain showers came on the heels of a similar measure that the state had been planning to undertake.

On 20-21 November, the Delhi government is all set to induce artificial rainfall (if the skies are cloudy) by implementing a process called cloud-seeding.

Environment Minister Gopal Rai met with an IIT Kanpur team on Wednesday that has been developing this project since 2018. The team had even conducted trials for this in July 2023 and received all permissions for it from the government. 

Now the Delhi government is waiting to submit the proposal from IIT Kanpur researchers to the Supreme Court for approval.

But wait, what is artificial rain? Is it effective? Is it even needed? FIT explains.

Delhi Planning To Induce Artificial Rain on 20–21 November: How Effective Is It?

  1. 1. Artificial Rain: How Does This Work?

    Raghu Murtugudde, Earth System Scientist at IIT Bombay, says, “To put it simply, we shoot chemicals like silver iodide at rain-bearing clouds to make it rain.”

    Elaborating on what Murtugudde says, Anjal Prakash, Clinical Associate Professor (Research) and Research Director Bharti Institute of Public Policy, Indian School of Business, tells FIT,

    “Artificial rain, or cloud seeding, is a weather modification technique where substances like silver iodide or potassium iodide are dispersed into clouds to encourage precipitation. These particles serve as cloud condensation or ice nuclei, promoting the formation of rain or snow.”

    Whether cloud seeding really works remains up for debate. Murtugudde says that there’s no scientific evidence to show that artificial rain helps in curbing air pollution.

    On the other hand, Prakash says that studies have shown that cloud seeding can work but only in specific conditions. These include:

    • Type of clouds in the sky

    • Atmospheric conditions

    • Availability of water vapour

    “Critics raise environmental and ethical concerns, emphasising the need for further research to fully understand and assess the impacts of artificial rain techniques.”
    Anjal Prakash
    Expand
  2. 2. Is Artificial Rain an Effective Way To Curb the Many Sources of Pollution?

    Not really, while artificial rain can address pollution sources like dust and construction debris, it’s not a comprehensive solution to curb all kinds of pollutants.

    Prakash tells FIT,

    “Stubble burning and industrial waste release a range of pollutants beyond those affected by precipitation. Addressing these issues requires a multi-faceted approach, including regulatory measures, technological advancements, and sustainable practices.”

    There are other concerns that arise from cloud seeding too, mainly for farmers.

    For one, Murtugudde points out that since chemicals are being used to induce rain, it could potentially lead to acid rain.

    On the other hand, Prakash points towards soil and water contamination, waterlogging, and unpredictable weather patterns.

    But, Murtugudde adds, these are only minor concerns since artificial rains will be induced in a controlled environment. 

    Expand
  3. 3. Other Solutions Authorities Should Be Focusing On Too

    But there are other things that authorities should also be focusing on, experts say.

    While the Delhi government has put the odd-even vehicle scheme on hold till the Supreme Court reviews its effectiveness, Murtugudde says the way to move ahead is by improving public transport.

    “Focus more on the source of pollution. A lot of it comes from vehicles. Make the metro free on days with poor AQI levels. Incentivise carpooling. Try to reduce the number of vehicles not just on the roads on particular days, but overall too.”
    Raghu Murtugudde

    Prakash agrees. He suggests bringing in policies that reduce emissions at the source itself. Not just that, he emphasises the need for adopting cleaner technologies and implementing stringent environmental policies. He says focusing on these could help significantly:

    • Promoting renewable energy sources

    • Stricter emission controls for industries and vehicles

    • Afforestation

    • Public awareness campaigns

    • Investing in sustainable urban planning

    Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment, had told FIT in October this year that implementing these smaller steps could help curb air pollution too:

    • Stricter dust control measures on construction sites

    • Preventing open burning of waste

    • Improving public transport

    • Consciously disposing industrial waste

    “It's crucial to recognise the interconnected nature of environmental issues and adopt a holistic perspective. Sustainable practices, conservation efforts, and the transition to renewable energy play pivotal roles in mitigating climate change and reducing pollution.”
    Anjal Prakash

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Artificial Rain: How Does This Work?

Raghu Murtugudde, Earth System Scientist at IIT Bombay, says, “To put it simply, we shoot chemicals like silver iodide at rain-bearing clouds to make it rain.”

Elaborating on what Murtugudde says, Anjal Prakash, Clinical Associate Professor (Research) and Research Director Bharti Institute of Public Policy, Indian School of Business, tells FIT,

“Artificial rain, or cloud seeding, is a weather modification technique where substances like silver iodide or potassium iodide are dispersed into clouds to encourage precipitation. These particles serve as cloud condensation or ice nuclei, promoting the formation of rain or snow.”

Whether cloud seeding really works remains up for debate. Murtugudde says that there’s no scientific evidence to show that artificial rain helps in curbing air pollution.

On the other hand, Prakash says that studies have shown that cloud seeding can work but only in specific conditions. These include:

  • Type of clouds in the sky

  • Atmospheric conditions

  • Availability of water vapour

“Critics raise environmental and ethical concerns, emphasising the need for further research to fully understand and assess the impacts of artificial rain techniques.”
Anjal Prakash
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Is Artificial Rain an Effective Way To Curb the Many Sources of Pollution?

Not really, while artificial rain can address pollution sources like dust and construction debris, it’s not a comprehensive solution to curb all kinds of pollutants.

Prakash tells FIT,

“Stubble burning and industrial waste release a range of pollutants beyond those affected by precipitation. Addressing these issues requires a multi-faceted approach, including regulatory measures, technological advancements, and sustainable practices.”

There are other concerns that arise from cloud seeding too, mainly for farmers.

For one, Murtugudde points out that since chemicals are being used to induce rain, it could potentially lead to acid rain.

On the other hand, Prakash points towards soil and water contamination, waterlogging, and unpredictable weather patterns.

But, Murtugudde adds, these are only minor concerns since artificial rains will be induced in a controlled environment. 

0

Other Solutions Authorities Should Be Focusing On Too

But there are other things that authorities should also be focusing on, experts say.

While the Delhi government has put the odd-even vehicle scheme on hold till the Supreme Court reviews its effectiveness, Murtugudde says the way to move ahead is by improving public transport.

“Focus more on the source of pollution. A lot of it comes from vehicles. Make the metro free on days with poor AQI levels. Incentivise carpooling. Try to reduce the number of vehicles not just on the roads on particular days, but overall too.”
Raghu Murtugudde

Prakash agrees. He suggests bringing in policies that reduce emissions at the source itself. Not just that, he emphasises the need for adopting cleaner technologies and implementing stringent environmental policies. He says focusing on these could help significantly:

  • Promoting renewable energy sources

  • Stricter emission controls for industries and vehicles

  • Afforestation

  • Public awareness campaigns

  • Investing in sustainable urban planning

Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment, had told FIT in October this year that implementing these smaller steps could help curb air pollution too:

  • Stricter dust control measures on construction sites

  • Preventing open burning of waste

  • Improving public transport

  • Consciously disposing industrial waste

“It's crucial to recognise the interconnected nature of environmental issues and adopt a holistic perspective. Sustainable practices, conservation efforts, and the transition to renewable energy play pivotal roles in mitigating climate change and reducing pollution.”
Anjal Prakash

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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