Artificial rain dangerous

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2006-09-15 09:46:08
By Judica Tarimo

A water expert cautioned the government yesterday over the use of artificial rain to fill drying up hydropower dams.

Reacting to Prime Minister Lowassa’s invitation to Thai scientists to provide artificial rain technology, which came against the backdrop of the biting five-a-week countrywide power rationing regime, the scientist warned that the government must first study the viability, practicability and implications of artificial rain technology to the country, before importing it.

The chemicals used in the production of artificial rain could affect climatic patterns, ecosystem, water sources and the soil,

said Dr Victoria Ngomuo, Community Water and Demographer at the Water Resources Institute (WRI) in Dar es Salaam.

Dr Ngomuo said the chemicals are catalysts which, when in microscopic particles, attract water vapour that condense to form droplets of water known as artificial rain.

Excessive use of the chemicals, Dr Ngomuo warned, would affect biodiversity and make the soil unproductive, besides being a water pollutant.

’The chemicals are most likely to affect the natural hydrological circle in the atmosphere,’ noted the expert.

Experts’ comments come after the government made public its intention to import artificial rain technology from Thailand to boost power generation in the country’s depleted hydropower dams.

Persistent drought in the past three years, helped on by poor water resource management, has adversely affected power production, resulting in the current power shortages and high electricity tariffs.

The water expert said artificial rain would have serious negative effects on the country and would have far-reaching environmental impact, leave alone the high cost.

She said artificial rain would most certainly affect agricultural production and domestic water consumption in Morogoro, a major producer of staple food – rice, potatoes and maize.

She said experience in countries where the technology is in use, shows that the outcome has been disastrous.

She said that China, which invested massively in the technology, was recently a victim of bird flu that killed both human beings and birds.

’Just imagine, global research studies on artificial rain started 50 years ago, but we are yet to see positive results,’ the demographer said.

She said the importation of the technology would add more problems to the existing ones, namely HIV/Aids, abject poverty, malaria, power shortage and new variants of diseases such as cancer.

She said artificial rain requires heavy financial outlay to foreign researchers and equipment, among other things.

She said if artificial rain were a viable idea, countries that are richer than Tanzania would be using it to solve their water problems.

The expert proposed that the government utilise local professionals and embark on integrated water systems management to curb the effects of long droughts, which have affected Mtera Dam and other hydro-power dependent stations adversely.

The government needs to develop mechanisms to allow stakeholders and Tanzania Electricity Supply Company (Tanesco), ministries of Energy and Minerals, Water, non-governmental organisations, exchange notes on how to improve environmental problems facing Mtera and other hydro-power stations.

’Local communities must be sensitised, mobilised and trained on water harvest, tree-planting and environment management activities, to pave the way for natural rainfall,’Dr Ngomuo observed.

Tanzania is a tropical country with an abundant supply of fresh water and natural forests, which if managed properly, would provide sufficient water, she said.