By P.T. Bopanna
The Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in Karnataka which backed the Kerala timber lobby to loot timber in the fragile Western Ghats, on Monday began artificial cloud seeding operation to induce rain.
It may be recalled that the Siddaramaiah Cabinet had rejected the Kasturirangan report which sought to protect the Western Ghats, presumably to benefit the timber mafia to mobilise funds for next year’s Assembly elections.
Instead of protecting the core forest areas in the state, the Karnataka government will be wasting Rs 35 crore for the cloud seeding project as cloud seeding is not a proven technology.
The cloud seeding experiment began at Magadi and Ramanagaram, after a – BQ-100 Beechcraft – took off from Jakkur Airport in Bengaluru. The flight is expected to spray Silver Iodide, Sodium Chloride and Potassium Chloride to condense the water particles. The cloud seeding will be taken up at three places including rural Bengaluru, Gadag and Yadgir.
Cloud seeding has never been statistically proven to work. An ecologist at Stanford University says, “I think you can squeeze out a little more snow or rain in some places under some conditions, but that’s quite different from a program claiming to reliably increase precipitation.”
Between 1999 and 2003, the S.M. Krishna government had first conducted seeding experiments for nine days, inducing some rains in north Karnataka. Interestingly, while the experiment was conducted in Dharwad, precipitation occurred around 100 km away in Belgaum.
With that kind of track record, instead of wasting money on such environmentally hazardous experiments, the government should concentrate on rain water harvesting, dry land farming, and importantly take steps to protect the forests.
The consecutive drought in Karnataka is mainly due to the looting of the forests in the Western Ghats at the instance of ministers in successive governments, including the felling of 50,000 trees last year in Kodagu to put up high power transmission lines to supply power to Kerala.
A minister in the Siddarmaiah government who is close to the Gandhi family, is said to be the agent for the Kerala timber lobby and played a prominent role in the rejecting of the Kasturirangan report.