Office buildings amid heavy smog conditions in New Delhi, India on Nov. 8, 2023. SHUBHAM KOUL / AFP via Getty Images

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New Delhi’s environment minister Gopal Rai met with the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IIT Kanpur) Wednesday to talk about the possibility of cloud seeding to induce rain in the capital city, which has been plagued by dangerous smog, reported Business Today.

Pending approval of IIT Kanpur’s proposal from the Supreme Court, the cloud seeding may be implemented on November 20 and 21, when a likelihood of cloud cover has been forecast.

“A delegation from CII & IIT, Kanpur met today to discuss the possibility of Cloud Seeding- Artificial rain in the Capital, for mitigating the [prevalent] air pollution. Enquired about the effectiveness of the technology and asked them to submit a concrete proposal,” Vinai Kumar Saxena, Delhi’s lieutenant governor, posted on social media.

Smog has been thick in Delhi for more than a week, forcing school closures and sending residents to the hospital with breathing issues.

“The density of population in New Delhi is tremendous, alarming, and you will not find greenery in many areas. The pollution level is of greatest danger here,” writer and Delhi resident Subhadip Majumdar told EcoWatch. “One has to walk through streets with masks like Covid days, and many people have trouble breathing. In autumn when the festival season starts, especially during Diwali or Festival of Lights, people burn fire crackers which contributes to the smog. The Delhi government has taken steps not to allow more than one car per family to drive on the roads and recently they have banned many old car models.”

As winter approaches each year, pollution from agricultural “stubble burning,” vehicles and industry gets trapped in the colder air, Reuters reported. Stubble burning is permitted for farmers to clear crop stubble following the rice harvest before planting their winter wheat crops.

“Sadly, every year when November rolls around there [is] a sense of dread as the air turns foul,” said Delhi resident Prachi Bhuchar, as reported by CNN. “We have been in Delhi for over 15 years now, but each year makes it tougher to stay on because it is a living hell.”

If the moisture content of the clouds predicted for November 20 is high enough, a mixture of salts will be used to trigger rainfall, according to Manindra Agrawal, an IIT Kanpur scientist and leader of the trial, Reuters reported.

The estimated cost of the project, which would cover 38.6 square miles, is $120,000.

“We don’t expect that big a cloud that will cover entire Delhi, but a few hundred kilometres would be good,” Agrawal told Reuters.

The city of 20 million will need widespread, heavy rain in order to clear out the pollutants, but light rain could actually make the situation worse, said Gufran Beig, founder and director of SAFAR, the monitoring agency of the federal government.

Other countries like China, Mexico, the U.S. and Indonesia have used cloud seeding to produce rain for crops affected by drought and to improve air quality.

But a plan to use the process to increase snowfall in New Mexico in 2021 was halted following allegations that it could be hazardous for residents and the environment.

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