Creating artificial rains, Delhi’s quick fix solution to clear up its toxic air, is awaiting one final approval — clearance to the aircraft that will carry out cloud seeding. Official communication asking for permission is in the process. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change received a request from Hyderabad-based National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) — a centre of Indian Space Research Organisation — to fly the aircraft to Delhi for cloud seeding. ET had reported on the plan for creating artificial rain for Delhi (“Pollution: Here’s a Plan to Wash Away Delhi’s Toxic Air”). Multiple approvals are required from four government departments: the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Indian Air Force (IAF) headquarters, and the Intelligence Bureau (IB), according to a senior official familiar with the development. This official did not want to be identified. The IAF and DGCA didn’t respond to queries sent by ET at the time of going to the press. Experts of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, currently involved in this never-before experiment to tackle pollution also told ET that clearances are required. Researchers have been ready for a week to make artificial rain happen. “We have been following up with NRSC for the last four days on the clearance for the aircraft which is yet to happen,” said Mr Manindra Agarwal, deputy director, IIT Kanpur. The official quoted above said, “We are trying to expedite the clearance process to create artificial rains in the city but as Delhi is falling in a high security zone, it would take time.” The Ministry of Environment is coordinating this initiative with government departments concerned along with IIT Kanpur and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Researchers at IIT Kanpur have been ready for a week now with the salt solution for seeding the clouds. “The window is small as the cloud formation is just about right to create artificial rains. This condition suitable to create rains is good for today and tomorrow,” said Sachchida Nand Tripathi, a professor at IIT Kanpur working closely with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) for the artificial rains. Artificial rain may help the city get respite, albeit short term, from the toxic air that has been shrouding the region for a fortnight. But government officials are optimistic. “The cloud formation is likely to be favourable for cloud seeding after 4 to 5 days,” said the ministry official. Cloud seeding involves changing the amount and/or type of precipitation that falls from clouds by dispersing substances (mostly salts) into the air. The dispersion is to be done from an aircraft. The NRSC aircraft has already been mounted with the instrument to spray the solution. This will be the first time that artificial rain will be used to tackle pollution in any Indian city.
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