As Delhi grapples with escalating pollution levels, a pioneering initiative led by IIT Kanpur is gaining attention—artificial rain through cloud seeding. This innovative approach, if successful, could provide a temporary respite from the city’s air quality crisis. Let’s delve into the intricacies of artificial rain, IIT Kanpur’s groundbreaking efforts, and whether this could be the answer Delhi needs.
Understanding Artificial Rain Cloud Seeding Unveiled
What is artificial rain?
Artificial rain, commonly known as cloud seeding, involves the introduction of specific chemicals, including silver iodide, potassium iodide, and dry ice, into the atmosphere using aircraft or helicopters. These substances act as nuclei, attracting water vapor and initiating cloud formation, eventually leading to rainfall. The methods vary, encompassing seeding supercooled clouds with silver iodide or dry ice and deploying hygroscopic materials like salt particles for warm clouds.
IIT Kanpur’s Pioneering Initiative
IIT Kanpur’s innovative approach
IIT Kanpur, at the forefront of pollution control research since 2018, conducted successful cloud seeding trials in June of this year. With the approval of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the institute plans to utilize aircraft equipped with cloud-seeding devices to induce rain, effectively washing away pollutants.
The proposed method involves a six-seater Cessna plane releasing salt from flares into the clouds, stimulating condensation and expediting the rainfall process. This groundbreaking technique mirrors efforts by other countries, notably China and nations in the Middle East, where artificial rain has been employed for decades to combat air pollution.
The IIT team apprised the Delhi government that the estimated cost for the project hovers around ₹1 lakh per square kilometer. In a notable move, the Delhi government expressed its willingness to bear this cost, contingent on support from the central government.
Will Artificial Rain Make a Difference?
Will artificial rain really help?
Manindra Agrawal, the IIT Kanpur professor spearheading the project, asserts that artificial rain could offer a brief respite from poor air quality for about a week in the National Capital Region (NCR).
Recent rains in Delhi, unrelated to artificial means, showcased a slight and temporary improvement in air quality. However, as the Supreme Court emphasized, this was not attributable to any specific efforts by the government.
Challenges and Considerations
The flip side of artificial rain
While artificial rain emerges as a potential short-term solution, it comes with challenges and environmental considerations. Cloud seeding necessitates approval from various authorities, including the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Special Protection Group. Additionally, it poses environmental risks, such as ocean acidification, ozone layer depletion, and potential harm from the use of toxic silver iodide.
In response to escalating pollution levels, the government is contemplating additional measures, including the temporary closure of schools for in-person classes and the implementation of Stage IV of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).
In the ongoing battle against pollution, IIT Kanpur’s foray into artificial rain presents a unique and innovative approach. While it may provide a brief respite, it’s crucial to acknowledge the temporary nature of this solution and the associated challenges. As Delhi explores various avenues to tackle pollution, including artificial rain, the road ahead requires a holistic and sustainable strategy to ensure long-term environmental well-being.