Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai on Thursday wrote to chief secretary Naresh Kumar, asking him to coordinate with IIT Kanpur over a detailed proposal to create artificial rain over Delhi.
In his letter, Rai said IIT Kanpur’s presentation — made to the government on Wednesday — will cover an area of around 300sqkm in the first experiment that they plan in Delhi around November 20 or 21, when meteorological conditions are likely to be ideal. This could then be scaled up to an area of 1,000 sqkm in the second experiment, with the institute presenting a cost of ₹1 lakh per sqkm, translating to a cost of ₹3 crore in the first phase and ₹10 crore in the second.
Delhi has an area of 1,483 sqkm.
IIT Kanpur, along with a delegation from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), had on Wednesday approached both the Delhi government and lieutenant governor VK Saxena to propose a pilot project to create artificial rain over Delhi. Neither the LG, nor the Delhi government had received an official proposal from the institute till late on Thursday evening.
Rai, in his letter to Kumar, wrote, “…It was agreed in the meeting held on November 8, 2023 that a pilot project for artificial cloud seeding may be taken up in Delhi for approximately 300 sqkms, as Phase-1 around November 20, 21, in view of the deteriorating air quality levels prevailing over Delhi. Simultaneously, approvals for phase-2, covering around 1,000 sqkms may also be sought, so that a repeat round, covering a larger area of Delhi can be carried out incase the air pollution emergency prevails beyond November 21.”
HT has seen a copy of the letter, which also mentions that IIT Kanpur has carried out cloud seeding seven times in the past, and was successful in bringing rain in six attempts.
Cloud seeding is a weather modification technique, in which silver iodide (AgI) is released into the atmosphere to aid the formation of ice crystals and improve the ability of clouds to create rain.
Outside India, experiments with cloud seeding have most notably been conducted in China, where different cities have their own plans. China takes assistance from the military to carry out this exercise. In France too, this is done in coordination with over 20 different departments, largely to prevent hail from falling on agricultural fields in the spring and summer months.
Madhavan Rajeevan, former secretary, ministry of earth sciences said cloud seeding can be carried out to a certain amount of success. “I cannot comment on its possibility in Delhi or the impact on air pollution, but cloud seeding has been done to a reasonable amount of success in both 2018 and 2019 by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Solapur,” he said.
Manindra Agrawal from IIT Kanpur, who heads the artificial rain project, said they plan to use their own aircraft if a pilot project is held in Delhi. He said the aircraft has been specially modified to carry out such an exercise, with cloud-seeding equipment retrofitted on it.
“Experiments on cloud seeding were carried out in 2018. We also carried out flight runs this monsoon season, but that was done to simply test out the modifications made to the plane, so that we could get DGCA approval, which was subsequently received,” Agrawal said, stating all past experiments by his team have been done in Kanpur.