Thu, 11 Aug 1994

Rain-making operation shifts to Central Java

JAKARTA (JP): Following the huge success in West Java, the government's cloud seeding operation has moved to Central Java, where the severe dry spell has affected thousands of hectares of rice fields.

The Agency for the Research and Application of Technology, working with the Central Java Public Works Office, will be spraying salt in various places in the province during the next two weeks, the Ministry of Public Works said in a statement.

The operation will first target the Serayu River in the western part of the province where the impact of the dry spell on paddies is most severe. The operation hopes to induce rain above the huge Kedungombo reservoir where the water level has fallen drastically.

The government has reported that 500,000 hectares of rice fields in Java and in West Nusa Tenggara are threatened because of the unusually harsh dry spell this year.

A total of 60,000 hectares of paddies have already been completely written off.

The hint of massive rice crop failures has prompted rice traders to hoard their stock, causing prices to rise in many large cities in Indonesia.

Public Works officials said the government is hopeful that it can still salvage 200,000 of the 500,000 hectares now under threat by inducing rains in strategic locations.

The cloud seeding operation in West Java has succeeded in inducing rain in West Java and raised the water level of a number of strategic rivers including the Ciasem, Cikawung, Ciherang, Ciseel and Cimuntur. The rain that poured over Jakarta last week was also attributed to the operation, when strong winds blew the rain cloud over the Indonesian capital.

Altogether, 14 showers were recorded during the two week operation, according to the Public Works Ministry.

Soeparmono, the Director General of Irrigation at the Ministry of Public Works, said on Monday that farmers in West Java should start harvesting their rice now.

The government will consider cloud seeding in West Java again in September if it has not rained by then.

Soeparmono said the operation is mainly to save ripe paddies. The young paddies come last.

Besides inducing rain, the directorate is also operating three "balloon dams" designed to conserve as much water as possible during dry season. The three dams are in the Solo and Demak areas, both in Central Java, and in Surabaya.

The directorate is currently finishing five other balloon dams, three in the Madiun area and the other two in Ponorogo, both in East Java. The five dams are expected to start operating in October.

The Central Java operation will be launched from the Ahmad Yani airport in Semarang. Two propeller driven CASA NC 212-200 planes will be used, each one making five rounds a day to spray salt into clouds. (emb/rid)