Artificial rain was deployed as a measure to mitigate pollution levels in Lahore, Pakistan, a city grappling with severe air quality issues. Home to over 13 million people, Lahore has witnessed a rapid decline in air quality, prompting the closure of schools, markets, and parks for four days in early December. Facing an air quality index (AQI) deemed extremely hazardous, the provincial government of Punjab initiated cloud seeding in 10 locations using a small Cessna plane.
Cloud seeding involves the introduction of substances like common table salt or silver iodide into clouds to induce precipitation. In this instance, flakes of silver iodide were used, aiming to enhance the air quality. Termed “blueskying,” this practice has been employed in various countries, including the Middle East, China, and India.
Although the cloud seeding was deemed successful, the resulting rainfall was described as “scanty” due to suboptimal cloud quality. Despite modest precipitation, Lahore’s AQI improved from over 300 to 189. However, the positive impact proved transient, with pollution levels reverting to their previous state within a few days.
The cloud seeding operation did not cause significant disruption, and the authorities expressed intentions to conduct such efforts regularly during the smog season. The environmental minister acknowledged the minimal environmental impact of the small plane used, equating its emissions to that of two or three cars running for about four hours.
Climate experts, however, cautioned about the unpredictable effects of cloud seeding. Concerns were raised about potential unintended consequences, such as excessive rainfall leading to hailstorms. Experts emphasized that while artificial rain may offer temporary relief from smog, it is not a sustainable solution and could exacerbate conditions by creating prolonged fog and smog.
Former environment minister Malik Amin Aslam stressed the importance of studying the consequences of manipulating nature, urging caution in the use of such interventions. He emphasized the need to address the root causes of smog, such as emissions from transportation, industrial activities, and agricultural practices, rather than relying solely on temporary measures like cloud seeding.
Local doctors advised residents to take precautions against polluted air, including closing windows, limiting outdoor exposure, and using masks. The transport industry, identified as a major contributor to emissions in Lahore, was highlighted as a focus for governmental efforts to combat air pollution.