DA intensifies cloud seeding ops to fight drought

The department will conduct operations in Mindanao to induce rain

DREADED DROUGHT. Rice farmers are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of the impending El Niño

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) plans to conduct more cloud seeding operations in Mindanao to protect damage to crop lands caused by drought. (READ: Gov’t prepares PH agriculture sector for El Niño)

The Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) under the DA will conduct cloud seeding sorties over Lake Lanao in Lanao del Sur starting early September to induce more rains to feed the Agus and Pulangi hydropower plants, major sources of power in Mindanao.

The operations were requested by the Mindanao Development Authority.

BSWM will also evaluate a request for sorties by sugarcane farmers in Iloilo and other parts of Western Visayas. 

The agency had already finished cloud seeding operations in Angat Dam in Bulacan. These sorties were the equivalent of 12 hours and 10 minutes and were conducted from May 16 to 28.

They helped slow down the rate of water decline in the reservoir, from 0.31 meter per day from May 1 to 15, to 0.23 meter per day from May 15 to 28, said BSWM Director Silvino Tejada.

The past summer months have seen Angat Dam water levels fall below the critical point, potentially damaging rice fields in Bulacan and Pampanga.

Cloud seeding is the process of spreading dry ice or silver iodide aerosols into the upper parts of clouds to try to simulate the precipitation process and thus form rain.

 Funds to prepare for drought

The DA is gunning for an initial budget of P1.61 billion to protect farmers and the country’s agricultural sector from the adverse impacts of the approaching El Niño. (READ: El Niño-ready rice recommended for farmers)

Of this amount, P764.3 million is already available while the remainder is still being requested from the Department of Budget and Management.

Nearly half of the total, or P729.9 million, is intended for stocking and distribution of inputs. Some P340 million will be for the construction of small-scale irrigation facilities and P199.9 million for crop insurance.

“We are putting in place policy initiatives, water management and conservation measures, as well as modern and innovative farming and fishery technologies to somehow soften the effects of this dry weather,” said DA Secretary Proceso Alcala.

El Niño, a prolonged season of drought, is expected to begin in the last quarter of 2014 and last until early 2015, according to state weather bureau PAGASA. – Rappler.com

Worker planting rice image from Shutterstock