Cloud seeding over Lake Lanao begins

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/12 April)– A Beechcraft Baron aircraft loaded with sacks of salt flew over Lake Lanao starting Wednesday as the government began cloud seeding operations to produce more rains to feed the Agus and Pulangi hydropower plants, the major sources of electricity in Mindanao.

The twin-engine plane made four sorties—each trip carrying 18 sacks of vacuum salt—since the operations started last Wednesday, said Leilane Naga, in-charge of the cloud seeding operations of the Department of Agriculture.

“We have seeded the cumulus clouds over Lake Lanao since Wednesday. Each bag of vacuum salt weighs 25 kilos,” Naga said.

Naga said the cloud seeding operations have already yielded positive results, citing the rain recorded over Marawi City on the night of their first sortie last Wednesday.

She said the cloud seeding operations will also include the Pulangi River in Bukidnon province, adding the cloud seeding operations may last for 45 days.

Cloud seeding is a form of intentional weather modification that entails a plane to dispense hygroscopic materials, such as salt, over cumulus clouds to produce rain.

The National Power Corporation (Napocor) was scheduled to evaluate the results of the cloud seeding operations this weekend (Friday).

Romeo Montenegro, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) director for investment promotion and public affairs, said they requested the Agriculture department to start cloud seeding operations after noting that the water level in Lake Lanao has gone down to near critical level because of the hot summer.

Montenegro said data from the Napocor showed that the water level of Lake Lanao on Thursday was at 7.19 meters, which is close to the critical level of 6.98 meters.

“We do not want the water to reach the critical level. That is the reason we have requested the Department of Agriculture to start seeding the clouds,” Montenegro said.

The Agus and Pulangi hydropower plants produce 53 percent of electricity in Mindanao, parts of which is suffering from daily rotational brownouts.

In hard-hit areas like the cities of General Santos and Zamboanga, outages last up to eight hours daily.  (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)