Articles of the year 2010

Milking the Clouds
Published on March 27th, 2010

The biggest problem facing the world today is the shortage of water, and here in Pakistan the possibility of a severe drought is already being discussed privately - soon to be public know-ledge, and the desperate measures being undertaken for the construction of dams are still only on the 'national debate' stage, and it may be a while before a consensus, if any, is arrived at.

While all these points are examined, Islamabad and its functionaries are keeping themselves busy finding the approximately 15 billion dollars that will be required to build these dams. They are also busy studying what percentages can be siphoned off. I would like to propose a very simple method of increasing the water supply within the country. It is based on the principle of cloud seeding. These methods have already been used in Pakistan by the government agencies in regions where the rainfall has been minimal. Instead of seeding an area where clouds do not exist we should look at our northern area where cloud cover is present throughout the year.

Scientists agree that the largest known cloud formation in the world exists in Pakistan, second only to Nepal. These clouds stretch over our majestic Himalayan mountain range and have for millions of years been the source of water for the entire subcontinent. This huge reservoir already exists, and has only to be tapped into. As is commonly known Mount Everest has only five days of clear weather when the summit can safely be scaled, and for the 350 days there is heavy cloud cover and snow or rain. The fabled K2 entirely within Pakistan has even more cloud cover, which makes it more difficult to climb. Hence, the conquerors are fewer than of Everest.

These clouds can easily be made to deliver an increase of a minimum of 15 to 20 percent of the rainfall that are at present being precipitated over our northern areas. This 20 percent increase in our northern areas will be more than sufficient to replenish our underground water table, which has dropped at an alarming rate in the Punjab and Sindh dams. Only a systematic increase of rainfall can bring this about.

We do not have to go underground looking for water; it is there in the clouds. We just have to milk them. We will not be infri-nging on any territorial rights, but may be assisting the Indians in their quest for water. Before we are lead into the water wars, we should tap what is available to us.

An increase of 20 percent has been guaranteed by some of the scientists in our discussions. And all this will be at a fraction of any dam that would cost the nation a huge amount. Unfortunately, the most elegant solutions to our problems will remain on the shelf because of the formidable 'what's in it for us' factor without which nothing works in Pakistan. This has led to the early demise of this project without getting as far as a section officer.

To draw rain from the heavens, ancient Chinese once used to offer their best in sacrifice, apart from oxen and sheep. Legend has it that beautiful virgin girls were also thrown into rivers to please the water dragon, who would then show mercy and release the rain. The Water Dragon has now been appeased in China by using Silver Iodide crystals and the more humane and successful cloud seeding.

In Pakistan, we have other water depositories in the northern areas that can generate huge amounts of unpolluted rain water and which will be free, as opposed to the astronomic cost of the desalination plants whose cost is extremely attractive to our political leadership because of the high potential for 'padding' for further fatt-ening of bloated Swiss accounts under scrutiny. This is always a factor that is important to our political leadership, manufacturers of equipment and to our generous donors. Whose generosity is matched by their string of consultants, as highly priced as our politicians.

According to statistics from the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), from January to the end of June, cloud seeding produced 10 billion cubic metres of water, in six months. The capacity of Tarbela Dam is nine billion cubic meters. So in effect we can access a full Tarbela Dam every six months. In Pakistan, we already possess the best water distribution network in the wor-ld, and the cachement areas are given to us by nature. It is then the only possible solution to the empty rivers, and depleted underground water table.

This water is more than sufficient to open up our deserts, and to make Pakistan an agricultural powerhouse without the reliance on aid that comes with its own strings. In Pakistan, our internal hurdles may be far more intricate and difficult to overcome than any other constraints in a normal country.