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Buchanan calls for cloud seeding to help with drought conditions

Published:Wednesday | February 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter


DESCRIBING DROUGHT conditions in his constituency as an untenable crisis, Eastern Westmoreland Member of Parliament Luther Buchanan has called for Government to 'seed' the clouds to stimulate rainfall.

"The severity of the drought demands urgent action. As a short-term solution the Government could consider cloud seeding, which would not only result in rainfall, but also lead to an improvement in living and farming conditions," Buchanan told The Gleaner yesterday.

Cloud seeding is a form of weather modification which involves the dispersing of substances into the clouds to cause rain.

Jamaica employed the technique in 1975 when the National Water Commission (NWC) conducted an experiment cloud-seeding programme which lasted two and a half months.

The NWC said the programme resulted in the quadrupling of the supply to the Hermitage Dam in St Andrew.

Yesterday, Buchanan told The Gleaner that his constituency has been suffering tremendously, as a result of the lack of rainfall. He said the water levels at the Petersville well and Dontrought catchment, which supply parts of Westmoreland and St James, have receded signifi-cantly as a result of the unfavourable weather pattern.

"There are areas in Eastern Westmoreland where two persons have to use the toilet before it can be flushed," Buchanan said as he lamented the effects of the drought.

Schools closing

He said that at least one school has been forced to close, and that several are on the verge of being closed, because of either low water pressure or an absence of water.

"The problem is further compounded by the fact that there is no longer a rapid response unit and the Westmoreland Parish council has only one truck, and is unable to effectively supply the various communities and schools," Buchanan said.

Westmoreland is not the only parish that has been affected by drought conditions. Yesterday, the University of Technology was forced to suspend operations for the day because of water problems.

The NWC has also implemented restrictions across the Corporate Area as a result of low water levels in the Mona reservoir and Hermitage dam.

However, while Buchanan makes the call for cloud seeding, Evan Thompson, head of the weather branch at the Meteoro-logical Service, has urged caution.

"One would have to determine whether we have the clouds to seed and the wind patterns before embarking on such a programme," Thompson told The Gleaner.

He said it would be a waste of resources to seed the clouds, if they are not sufficient and the right type to provide the desired rainfall. He also said attention would have to be paid to harvesting the water, as well as flood mitigation.

Meanwhile, Thompson has said that data collected by the Meteorological Service does not support the view that there is a general drought across the island.

"The rainfall up to the end of December was above average," Thompson said.