Major Chinese cities, much like several other cities around the world, are staring at a distant future with less or possibly no water. Changing climatic conditions coupled with rampant urbanisation and its detrimental impact on the environment is fast putting cities at risk of losing its water resources. To avoid a situation like the one currently in South Africa's Cape Town where taps are set to run dry within months, Chinese authorities are reportedly building a complex network of systems in the Tibetan plateau that promise to bring in rain clouds artificially.
According to a report in the South China Morning Post, Chinese authorities have begun placing thousands of fuel-burning chambers on high locations in the Tibetan mountains. These chambers burn solid fuel which produces silver iodide - a recognised cloud-seeding agent. Moist monsoon winds coming from the south promise to then push the particles into the clouds, resulting in artificially-induced rain and snow. According to estimates, rain clouds created through this process can cover a total of approximately 1.6 million square kilometers and increase rainfall by up to 10 billion cubic metres each year.
Developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology, close to 500 such burners have reportedly been placed already and the number is expected to go up significantly.
Interestingly, countries like the United States have also conducted tests on similar systems to introduce artificial rain. The Chinese system though makes use of military rocket engine technology which promises safety and better utilisation of energy. It is also believed to be relatively inexpensive.
Not every aspect of creating or changing weather patterns though is widely appreciated. Critics often suspect countries like China, Russia and the United States experimenting with technologies that can alter climatic conditions and create flood, hurricanes or even droughts which can then in turn be used as a weapon against enemy states.
China has already been diverting Brahmaputra water with a dam which will create water shortage for us. The artificial rainwater harvesting plan of them will create even more danger. PM should take it seriously or our future will be in dark: Tarun Gogoi, Former #Assam CM pic.twitter.com/llQuwUOdY8
— ANI (@ANI) March 28, 2018
The counter-argument mainly used though is that in the face of changing weather conditions, artificial means are required to maintain status quo.