UAE aids Lahore with cloud seeding flights to combat city's smog

Two aircraft with special cloud seeding equipment was sent to Pakistan

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The UAE has helped the Pakistani city of Lahore carry out cloud seeding flights to help fight against pollution, according to a local minister.

Caretaker chief minister of Punjab Mohsin Naqvi said that the Emirates had sent two aircraft earlier this month to help with cloud seeding, which involves firing salt flares into clouds to enhance rainfall.

The UAE is a pioneer in the weather modification technique having carried out thousands of flights over the years in the aim to encourage rainfall.

“It was a gift from the UAE, in which they managed everything. Our people are also involved,” Mr Naqvi said on Saturday.

“It was an experiment that was important for us so that we can combat smog.

“We'll see how much rainfall happens in the coming days, but we've had the first rainfall already.”

Lahore's pollution problem

Lahore, the largest city in Pakistan's Punjab province, has suffered from smog for many years.

Heavy smog has caused flights to be delayed at Lahore's main airport several times.

On Sunday, IQAir, a Swiss air technology company, ranked Lahore as 'unhealthy' and said that it regularly ranks top on the company's live pollution rankings of major global cities.

“Air quality in Lahore usually worsens during the winter season from October to February when farmers in the wider Punjab province set light to the remnants of crops, producing smoke that adds to smog,” the company said.

“At the same time, weather changes mean pollutants remain trapped in the air for longer.”

How would cloud seeding help?

Rainfall helps reduce the amount of pollutants in the air, according to AQI, another website that tracks air quality around the world.

Last month, Pakistan introduced a smog action plan in Lahore that would include artificial rain to combat high levels of pollution.

Nasimur Rehman, director of the Punjab Environment Department, told The National in an earlier interview that the air quality index (AQI) score in Lahore was about 265, although smog levels fluctuate daily.

“Under the smog action plan, traffic police are checking vehicles to either issue them fitness certificates or to rectify those which produce excessive smoke,” said Mr Rehman.

“Also under the plan, authorities are working to install emission control systems at industries, while measures are also being taken to replace the stubble burning with machines that would remove plant remains from underground so that farmers do not need to burn stubble.”

The UAE carries out cloud seeding flights that seeds environmentally friendly materials, including salts such as potassium chloride and sodium chloride, into clouds that are forming.

It helps to stimulate and accelerate the condensation process and produce droplets to then fall as rain.

The UAE conducted 311 cloud-seeding missions in 2022, clocking up close to 1,000 flying hours.

This is a significant increase from the 177 flights conducted in 2016.

Updated: December 17, 2023, 12:03 PM