By P.T. Bopanna
In a diabolical exercise, the lame duck JD (S)-Congress government headed by H.D. Kumaraswamy in Karnataka has approved a Rs 91-crore plan for cloud seeding which could have a devastating effect on Kodagu (Coorg).
Reports said though the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) had offered its services, the Karnataka government finalised the tender process with a private bidder.
It may be recalled that Congress President Rahul Gandhi had questioned the Modi government’s decision to involve an Anil Ambani-led company in the Rafale fighter deal, instead of the HAL. Now the same Congress government in Karnataka has dumped HAL for a private player.
What has raised eyebrows is the fact that the Karnataka Cabinet has approved the Rs 91 crore plan spread over for two years, instead of for one year.
Karnataka’s Rural Development and Panchayati Raj minister, Krishna Byre Gowda said on Monday “The preparations for this would take about 40-45 days.”
Since the project requires clearance from the Union government, prime minister Modi should not give the green signal for the project which could lead to large-scale devastations in Kodagu which suffered huge landslides last year due to floods.
There is a possibility of heavy downpour in Kodagu when the cloud seeding exercise is carried out elsewhere in the state.
For instance, during the S.M. Krishna government between 1999 and 2003, while the cloud seeding experimented in Dharwad, precipitation occurred around 100 km away in Belgaum. Such uncertainty could be worrying for Kodagu where people are in panic fearing landslides this year too in the wake of the prediction made by a geologist.
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.”
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.
In the circumstances, the Karnataka government should immediately put on hold the cloud seeding plans and concentrate on sustainable and innovative farming practices.