Solapur, Satara and Sangli are neighbouring districts in Western Maharashtra but due to geographical and topographical reasons weather patterns are vastly different. While some areas are flooded due to excessive rainfall, others are desperately hoping for more rain and trying to make it happen too by spending Rs 30 crores on cloud seeding.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis says, "This is a matter of huge concern for us. If we observe recent trends, the rain comes late, there is a drought. Then four months of rain comes in 15-20 days. We have understood this trend and we have formulated a climate change mitigation plan."
While Sangli and Satara have received 52 per cent and 73 per cent excess rainfall this time, neighbouring Solapur has received 42 per cent less rainfall. While Sangli and Satara fall in traditionally heavy rainfall areas, Solapur is more towards the west and closer to Marathwada, an area that receives less rainfall. Alongside Solapur, in places like Bid the situation is still critical with Bid receiving 42 per cent less rainfall too. Osmanabad has received 21 per cent less rainfall and Latur has received 29 per cent less rainfall. Washim and Yavatmal districts in Vidarbha have also received nearly 30 per cent less rainfall.
As flood waters have receded in Kolhapur, Satara and Sangli, in neighbouring Solapur plans for cloud seeding are underway to create rainfall. The same method is being applied to places like Bid, Parbhani, Jalna and Latur as well.
Deputy Director General of Meteorology at the Regional Meteorological Centre in Mumbai, told NDTV, "Because of the variation in the patterns in rainfall, not only India but in other countries as well with the shadow of climate change and global warning we need to develop crop patterns that are resilient to this phenomenon. Often we see there are clouds but there is no rain. To enable rainfall we spray them with aerosols to generate rain. We study the cloud on the radar and we have installed radars all over Marathwada. It's successful in Karnataka and the Indian Meteorological department and the Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune are on the advisory board for the Government of Maharashtra for this as it is a proven technology."
"In weather modification cloud seeding is one of the techniques which has been adopted globally. But there has to be clouds for that. Based upon the cloud water content sodium iodide aerosols will be fired. And then once the aerosols are fired the condensation nuclei which we release into the cloud they actually become water droplets and come down. This takes about 20 to 45 minutes or sometimes an hour," Mr Hosalikar added.
The state government has already allocated Rs 30 crore for cloud seeding and operations are already on Bid and Solapur by a US-based agency. Radars have been installed in Aurangabad and Solapur and the attempt to generate rain will continue in August, September and even October if there are clouds till then. The weather department says when the monsoon retreats there is thunderstorm activity in these areas and it is possible for some of this rainfall shortage to be addressed, especially with cloud seeding as more rainfall is predicted in September.
Farmers in Bid are pinning their hopes on the exercise and hope it works. 46-year old Sanjay Kakade whose five acre land is completely dry lost as he lost his last two crops due to drought is hoping that the planes that have arrived in Aurangabad can fly into the cloud and generate rainfall.
"There has been no rain in July and August. There is no rain. What will we do? Crops are drying up and farmers are crying. We have lost everything and we are heavily in debt. When there is no cloud in the sky what will these planes do? When there are clouds in the sky, we hope the plane will come and create some rainfall," Mr Kakade told NDTV.