Fri, 05 Sep 2003

City OKs cloud seeding project

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak The Jakarta Post Jakarta

The city administration plans to carry out cloud seeding at the cost of Rp 2.2 billion (US$258,825) starting in the middle of this month which is expected to mitigate the adverse impact of the current drought, officials said.

City spokesman Muhayat said on Thursday that Governor Sutiyoso had given the green light on Wednesday to the project, which was proposed by the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT).

The budget will be taken from the city secretary office's emergency fund.

Head of the City Environmental Management Agency (BPLHD), Kosasih Wirahadikusumah, an advisor to the governor on the project, said that the process would take 20 days with an interval after 10 days.

The project will start 10 days after the administration completes the necessary paperwork while BPPT will use the period to prepare the airplanes and materials for the cloud seeding.

Kosasih quoted reports from a joint team of experts from BPPT, the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (Lapan), and the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) that the seawater failed to evaporate due to the low temperature of the current seasonal winds, thus the current drought.

"The only chance to create rain in the near future is by cloud seeding above Gede, Pangrango and Salak mountains, which are located south of the city. Although there is no guarantee it will succeed, it is worth a try," he said.

"Past experiences show that the management of the Citarum river basin is not effective to deal with the annual floods and drought, we've decided to give this a try where we can control the intensity of rainfall," he added.

According to Kosasih, besides helping to ease the adverse impacts of drought, the cloud seeding project was also aimed at controlling the amount of rainfall in the coming rainy season, that is expected to start in November, in order to prevent floods in Jakarta.

He argued that experts' surveys indicated that there would be no clouds suitable for cloud seeding up the Citarum river until October. The river basin provides water to Jatiluhur reservoir, the main source of tap water for Jakartans.

However, as the rain would predictably fall on the southern part of the city, it would not restore the shrinking water level of Jatiluhur, which currently is 85 centimeters, a decrease from the normal water level of 150 centimeters, said Kosasih.

"The city would still suffer from water scarcity," he added.

Many parts of the city, as well as other provinces in the country, are now being hit by the prolonged dry season expected to last until the end of October. BMG predicts that North Jakarta would suffer from water shortages until the end of December.