Can Cloud Seeding Rescue “Water Wives” in India?

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Credit: Bigstock

Credit: Bigstock

BONN, 11 Nov 2016 -- “Clean water isn’t just a matter of life and death. It’s not just about thirst, hunger and sanitation. It’s about opportunity. Without access to clean water, the world’s poorest people will stay poor” says Michela Miletto, WWAP UNESCO coordinator in Water for Women (

“Water Wives” are a harsh reality of one of India’s water scarce regions – Denganmal, Maharashtra.

In the third largest State of India – Maharashtra, the Indian government has estimated that about 19,000 Villages do not have access to one of the basic human rights – water.

In one such village, Denganmal, there are only 2 wells which are located about 3-4 hours away and women shoulder the responsibility of fetching water for the entire family.

When the woman of the house is unable to fetch water any longer, the man dutifully marries another younger woman to be his water-fetching-wife (a.k.a Water Wife).

This arrangement continues for as long as there is a younger woman helping with the water needs of the family.

Most of the men in the village are less than minimum-wage earners and have found a solution to their water-crisis in this blasphemous act of polygamy reducing women to water-wives. However, some of the women who are widows or have been abandoned consider that the above status places them higher on the social strata in their community.

It is disheartening to see that inspite of rapid changes in technology; the government has turned a blind eye to this situation.

Have they considered Cloud Seeding? Can it rescue the Water Wives of Denganmal and many such villages? Can it save the world from Water Poverty? Will this geo-engineering technique reduce the number of Water Refugees? Is it sustainable?

The above questions are a few from the myriad list of questions we might be thinking of to help with a sustainable solution and the following section will throw some light on the answers to these.

Cloud seeding could be a messiah of drought-prone areas in the near future, IF conducted correctly!

Cloud Seeding Simplified

Rain is evidently an integral part of agriculture, and the source of rain is clouds. The process of cloud seeding artificially induces rain through technology. This revolutionary mechanism has been successful in causing rain in many drought-prone areas. However, like every other technological advancement, this too comes with it’s boons and banes.

Do we really need it?

As per United Nations statistics, about half of the world’s population is prone to face water shortage by the year 2030, owing to the steadfast demographic trends and patterns in migration.

As per United Nations statistics, about half of the world’s population is prone to face water shortage by the year 2030, owing to the steadfast demographic trends and patterns in migration.

To understand how scientists carry out the task, let’s first understand how nature handles the process of rainfall. The simple explanation to this phenomenon is that water from various water bodies evaporates and the water droplets come together to form clouds. When these clouds containing water particles become heavy and collide, they fall on Earth as rain.

When we try to imitate nature to carry out the same process, we have a far complex mechanism.

Aircraft containing chemicals such as Silver Iodide are instrumental in creating rain. Most commonly used Silver Iodide collect water around the chemical droplets in clouds and make them heavier, thus causing rain.

Some researchers use natural salts like Sodium Chloride and Potassium Chloride for the seed flaring thereby increasing the condensation process.

Cloud Seeding: a myth or reality?

A recent example from another water-scarce region of the world with extremely limited fresh-water, declining groundwater reserves and one of the highest per-capita water consumption statistics, tested cloud seeding.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has witnessed an expeditious economic development in the recent past causing an increased demand for fresh-water.

“The UAE is one of the first countries of the Arabian Gulf region that have use the cloud seeding technology, which adopted the latest technologies available on a global level, using sophisticated weather radar, to monitor the atmosphere of the country around the clock. “ – Abu Dhabi’s National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) had shared on their official website.

Reports suggest between January 2016 and the end of March 2016, Sufian Farrah, a meteorologist and cloud seeding expert at the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology, UAE, said “77 seeding operations took place – more than three times as many as during the same period last year.”

The above series of operations resulted in an increased rainfall as compared to the previous years.

Is Cloud Seeding Sustainable?

As mentioned earlier, cloud seeding has it’s pros as well as it’s cons. Ongoing research is striving to make it commercially viable and help in sustainable water management.

The UK-based Water Aid shares the criteria they use to check the viability of various water technologies for various geographies with water-related issues in their Website; “With all technologies, we evaluate each approach with the first aim of long-term sustainability. Each is evaluated based on:

  • Availability in local markets
  • Availability of spare parts or materials in local markets
  • Ability to deliver cost effective, long-term supplies without complex maintenance, expensive components or expensive chemicals”.

The research to evaluate the sustainability of Cloud Seeding is ongoing by myriad institutions worldwide based on criteria similar to those used by Water Aid mentioned above.

Cloud seeding experiments in arid regions like the UAE and extensive research in this area, give hope to people battling water crisis – the water refugees, the water wives, and so on.

Water is indispensible for the sustenance of life of Earth, and most importantly – Clean Water. The scarcity of this integral resource has prominent social and economic setbacks, as in the case of Denganmal.

The families are stuck in the vicious circle of poverty, while the worth of women of these families are compared to their ability to fetch water for their families.

The solution to these socio-economic problems lies partially in pro-development techniques such as cloud seeding.

The government should awaken and address the plight of people living in such heart wrenching conditions. We need to act, TODAY!

Following a series of two-day media training workshops on the UN's post-2015 global development agenda, we will be running feature articles and oped pieces written by some of the young journalists who participated in them. Sponsored by Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency, the media workshops are supported by the UN Foundation.

The series of articles will focus on the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), approved by world leaders during the UN General Assembly session in September 2015, and the Climate Change Agreement which came into force in November 2016.

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