Artificial rain is being used in an attempt to lower pollution levels in Lahore, Pakistan.
The capital city of the eastern province of Punjab, near the Indian border, has some of the worst air quality in the world and has become extremely polluted due to its growing population of more than 13 million people.
In early December, the city’s air quality improved so much that schools, markets and parks were closed for four days. Last week, the city’s air quality index (AQI) reached a level that is considered very dangerous to health.
To try to reduce them, on Saturday the government of Punjab used cloud seeding to make rain in 10 places around the city using a small Cessna plane.
In order for clouds to form, there must be enough moisture already in the clouds in the lower atmosphere. In summer, common table salt mixed with water is scattered in cloud patches from airplanes. After a few hours, the fog will mix with the clouds and produce rain. In winter, the clouds are seeded with fragments of silver iodide, which can be fired from a car or plane.
The practice, also known as blueskying, is used to induce rain in many countries in the Middle East, as well as in China and India.
Bilal Afzal, the provincial caretaker minister for the environment, said that the cloud seeding was successful, but admitted that there was little rain because the cloud quality was not very good. However, Lahores air quality improved with just a few millimeters of rain, dropping from an AQI of over 300 to 189, Afzal said. However, the benefits only lasted a few days before pollution returned to previous levels.
Exercise did not cause any significant disruption. I recently got spatter on my car while driving home from the clinic around 3pm and thought it was bird droppings, said Zaeema Naeem, a doctor in Lahore.
Afzal said the authorities plan to do cloud seeding regularly during the smog season. If we can clean our air at the cost of fuel for a small plane, the exercise will be worth it, he said. Instead, it means buying or renting a small plane. As for the emissions from it, he said it only amounts to two or three cars running for about four hours.
However, climate experts warn that the effects of cloud seeding can be unpredictable. Malik Amin Aslam, a former environment minister, said that once it rains it becomes difficult to catch it. The cessation of rain bursts was dictated by nature, he said.
Dr Ghulam Rasul warned that an overdose could lead to hail or heavy rain. The head of the climate change program of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and a former director general of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, he said that while this may provide temporary relief from smog, it is not a lasting solution. and can create very dry. conditions, which may cause fog and smog to become more persistent.
Aslam agreed that the government should study the consequences of disturbing the environment and use this tool very slowly; it’s like using steroids as a last-ditch effort to break the cycle of unliveable smog. Such solutions, he added, could take the focus away from addressing the real sources of smog, such as transportation, industrial emissions, crop and waste burning and lost green cover.
He said the transport industry was responsible for 50% of Lahore’s emissions, adding that the government was doing its best to tackle it.
Fehmeda Khan, a local doctor, observed a threefold increase in patients complaining of respiratory tract diseases and allergies due to dust. He advises residents: Close your windows to avoid dirty air outside, avoid going out and wear a mask if you do; and perform nasal saline rinses morning and night as a daily regimen.
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