• CLOUD SEEDING: HELPING NATURE PRODUCE RAIN

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    IF Mother Nature will not produce the rain needed to irrigate farms and turn on power generators, the country can try cloud seeding.

    But this process does not only entail spraying clouds with dry ice or silver iodides. In fact, not just any kind of cloud can be induced to produce rain.

    And the help of weather experts is needed to ensure the success of a cloud-seeding operation.

    Cloud seeding is the process of spreading dry ice or silver iodide aerosols on the upper clouds to simulate the precipitation process and induce rain.

    According to Dr. Silvino Tejada, executive director of the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM), the success of cloud seeding operations, however, depends on the availability of cumulus clouds. These cotton-like, fluffy clouds are the “most efficient” in producing rain.

    Cloud-seeding operations are made in coordination with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) because wind direction should first be ascertained before the process is carried out.

    On April 21, to prepare for the impending water shortage, the National Power Corp. (Napocor) called a meeting with officials of the BSWM (Bureau of Soil and Water Management) of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and Pagasa to discuss cloud-seeding operations to be conducted over Angat dam, as the water level of the reservoir had been dropping because of the summer heat.

    MWSS Deputy Adminsitrator Leonor Cleofas said the process is necessary to ensure that farms fed by Angat and the water taps in Metro Manila will not dry up.

    “Our main goal is to avoid disruption of water supply in Metro Manila,” Cleofas added.

    The MWSS will shoulder the cost of operations for the first 60 hours of cloud seeding— about P2.6 million since domestic water supply was the top priority. If the process is extended, it will be funded by the DA, National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and the Napocor/Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM).

    Napocor President Ma. Gladys Cruz-Sta. Rita said the cloud seeding will be conducted in cooperation with BSWM and Pagasa.

    Cloud-seeding operations were also carried out over Magat dam and its major watershed areas in Nueva Vizcaya and Ifugao.

    Magat contributes at least 380 megawatts of power, making it the second-biggest power provider among Luzon’s hydro-dams.

    But the cloud-seeding operations turned tragic when, on the second day of operation on April 27, the plane used for the one-hour fly by exploded in mid air, killing all four people on board — pilot Philip Jubane, his crew Christopher Evan Borja and BSWM personnel Leilani Naga and Melvin Simangan.

    Lawyer Mike Hosillos, spokesman for SN Aboitiz Power (SNAP), which operates the dam’s power component, said officials had planned to conduct daily cloud-seeding sorties for 30 days to induce rain over Magat dam.

    Hosillos said because of the tragic accident, officials have canceled cloud-seeding operations.

    Despite the accident, the Senate agriculture committee said it would push for the purchase of more cloud-seeding planes to address drought-related problems.

    Sen. Cynthia Villar, committee chairman, said the issue will be discussed in the next budget hearing.

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