Worried by the revised monsoon forecast of lower than normal rainfall, the Maharashtra government has set in motion a contingency plan for cloud seeding to combat the looming water crisis in the state, an official said in Mumbai.
The revenue, relief and rehabilitation ministry issued tenders last month inviting bids for cloud seeding operations in different parts of the state.
The issue was also discussed at Tuesday's Cabinet meeting presided over by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and an amount of Rs 10 crore has been set aside for the venture.
Cloud seeding is the process to change the amount or type of precipitation which falls from clouds. It is done by dispersing substances into the air that serve as cloud condensation or ice nuclei, which change the microphysical processes within the cloud.
"We plan to undertake cloud seeding in Vidarbha, Marathwada and north Maharashtra on a pilot basis," Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse said.
In the past few years, the state has experienced spells of droughts or semi-droughts, with bouts of unseasonal rains and hailstorms which have resulted in huge crop damage and large numbers of farmers committing suicide.
Way back in 1992, cloud seeding was attempted by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) over a couple of lakes supplying drinking water to the city, but the results were not very encouraging.
The process involved a furnace in which coal is burnt at 1,350 degrees Celsius in which powdered Silver Iodide is sprinkled.
These particles rise in the air to cloud level in 10-12 minutes.
There are various natural parameters contributing to its success, including the height of the clouds which must be between 8,000-10,000 metres, wind speed of between 15-20 kmph and at least 70 per cent humidity levels.
After these particles travel upwards, they crystallize at minus-five degrees and since clouds have both ice and water crystals, the particles attract the water, its weight increases and they fall down in the form of rain within a couple of hours.
The proposed exercise may be taken up only after studying the current monsoon patterns and would be largely experimental in nature, but if it succeeds, it would be taken up on regular basis in the state, officials said.