Anti hail guns: are they really needed in Himachal?

The hail stones have done the damage as usual, but the much promised anti hail guns for last two and a half years are yet to be seen and installed in ridges of apple growing belt of Shimla, Kullu, Mandi and Kinnaur districts. It’s been almost three years now since the inception of very idea of installing Anti Hail Guns in apple growing areas, but not much concrete has been done by the Govt in this regard. At first instance the need for anti hail guns in fruit zone is dire but their technical capability to avert the freakish phenomenon of hails is doubted by many.

Looking at the past experiences across the globe in countries like USA, China, Netherlands, Israel, Mexico etc. there is a 50-50 chance of successfully averting the wrath of hailstones. As per technical details available the acetylene based hail guns supported by the web of radars, are most effective if fired at least 20-30 minute before the expected time of hail shower. The area covered by each gun is is approximately 80-90 hectares i.e. within a radius of about 500 meters.

anti hail gun

One tends to question the effectiveness of these anti-hail guns in respect of rapid and unexpected climate change process where extremes are growing for the worst with lesser unexpected rains and above normal temperature deviations (8-9 degrees) during summers in many parts of the hill state. To anyone’s surprise Shimla broke its 170 years’ record of highest temperature this May by touching 32.4°C mark. Lower and upper areas of the state has simmered alike year after year for last two decade now.

Perhaps a quick analysis of climatic phenomenon for last 15-20 years in the hill state and especially of Shimla will clear the idea about what actually is happening in apple producing belt. It is interesting to study the changing precipitation pattern at state level but unfortunately sufficient and relevant temporal data in not readily available.

The relation of snowfall, rainfall and annual apple production has a direct correlation. It can be seen from the graph that the snowfall in 1990 has been above normal and between 1991 and 2000 the annual average snowfall has been almost consistent throughout, varying from 45mm to 180mm. Beyond 2001 there have been extreme variations with few years noticing no snow or very less snowfall. These extremes coincide with the drought and rain deficient years and consequent fall and rise in apple production throughout.

Graph-1

(Source: State statistical handbook and Weather Monitoring Station, Shimla)

Again, years 2003-06 has seen a good spell of snowfall and the apple production too has seen a consistent growth for these four years. But in year 2007 the snowfall failed and the corresponding apple production too has seen a downfall than the previous years. In year 2008 again the snowfall (chilling hours) was fairly good, although below average but the crop again saw an increased output. Year 2009 was a draught hit year and the consequent apple production with initial official projection of crossing previous year’s mark of 592 thousand metric tonnes fell to 280 thousand metric tonnes. This year (2010), the apple production is pegged at 500 thousand metric tonnes (2.5 crore boxes) but already a number of hail spells across the apple belt of state has already taken its toll on 60-70% crop.

It is interesting to observe that as per the official records on apple production from year 2000 to 2009 there has been a negligible change in the corresponding land area under apple plantation. One could ask that how can apple production with mostly aging rootstock and same crop area increase by about 75%? One, it could be due to intensive dependence on fertilizers, which is true, but more apt reason I think is the increase in unregistered land under apple crop i.e. the encroachments of forest area in upper reaches of apple growing belts. These unregistered tracts are influential in changing the apple production figures at state level. No wonder, the climatic variations are bound to happen with rampant scraping of thousands of hectares of valuable forest. Year after years the Forest Department reports increase in the net area under forest cover on papers, where as the ground reality speaks for the contrary.

Govt. is looking forward to buy about 40 guns and 4 radars to operate an umbrella to protect the fruit belt of the state. However, the actual effective coverage provided by each gun is about 80-90 hectares i.e. roughly within a radius of about 500m. Going by these figures, 40 guns will roughly cover an area of about 3500-4000 hectares, whereas the total registered area under apple crop in the state is about 90,000 hectares, thus the initial protection will be provided only for 4.5% area under the apple crop with 50-50 chances of its success. Knowing that the guns are most effective when installed at the higher reaches i.e. between 2500-4000 meters and the apple farms within these altitudes are mostly encroached forest area, so in a way government is indirectly paying to protect the encroachers or the real culprits of local climate change.

What a tragedy!!

Govt. on the other hand is sitting blindfold on the issue of deficient rainfall and the consequent fall in water table across the state. If one consider rainfall pattern in Shimla, in last 10 years except for year 2006 which was a rain surplus year (with 6% above normal rainfall) rest all nine years have been rain deficient, varying from 10% to 50% below normal. Even year 2009 was a rain deficient year receiving about 36% below normal rainfall. These patterns in over all rainfall figures are likely to see more declines in years to come. But are we prepared for the same? A big NO. Apart from the deficient rains a number of development projects like the numerous road being carved out to reach one’s doorstep, which in a way has become an ill fated fad in hills and hundreds of mini-micro and mega hydroelectric projects thriving on dynamite blasts has also contributed to the downfall of water table and drying of natural water springs in apple growing belt.

The need of the hour is not just the anti hail guns but also the cloud seeding technology to bring in timely rainfalls and snowfall to maintain the moisture content of the soil in apple producing belts. Government need to look for a better and inclusive 2-in-1 technology to prepare for the inclement extreme conditions. Cloud seeding involves spraying chemicals into the air like silver iodide which is the primary silver iodide-based ice-nucleating complexes which causes moisture particles to expand, forming drops of rain that fall to the ground. It can increase the annual precipitation by about 10% is designed and implemented in a scientific way. Various researches conducted across globe have shown a negligible or no environmentally harmful effect arising out of cloud seeding.

The cloud seeding is intended to augment rainfall and snowfall in draught prone and rain deficient areas, thus providing sufficient water for various uses such as hydroelectric power generation, irrigation, domestic and industrial usages etc along with replenishing of water table. The extensive deforestation, increase in pollution and subsequent increase in global warming complemented by the increase in area under fruit production, especially apple and the rapid population growth and urbanisation in Himachal Pradesh and neighbouring states will cause water demands to regularly outstrip water supplies in the near future, especially during inevitable droughts. In countries like USA, Netherlands, China, Israel, China etc the Cloud Seeding has been conducted for last few decades.

Along with the purchase and installation of anti-hail guns, Himachal government needs to invest in the cloud seeding technology in order to sustain and prolong the future of fruit and vegetable farming in the state.

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27 Responses to "Anti hail guns: are they really needed in Himachal?"

  1. nextking   June 16, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Pretty insightful. Thanks for posting.

    Reply
  2. nextking   June 16, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Pretty insightful. Thanks for posting.

    Reply
  3. nextking   June 16, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Pretty insightful. Thanks for posting.

    Reply
  4. Shagun Thakur   June 17, 2010 at 3:09 am

    This is a very timely article and needs to be debated at large. While the government has been promising the hail guns for years now, this year wide spread destruction in the apple producing areas of the state should be an eye opener how things delayed in bureaucratic matters takes a toll on the lives of average farmers.

    The problem in Himachal is everything is viewed from the party angle. If BJP minister comes with a hail gun idea, Congress is supposed to oppose it subtly or overtly.

    The points raised in the articles are very strong and hopefully those in powers will respond to these with an open mind.

    Reply
  5. Shagun Thakur   June 17, 2010 at 8:39 am

    This is a very timely article and needs to be debated at large. While the government has been promising the hail guns for years now, this year wide spread destruction in the apple producing areas of the state should be an eye opener how things delayed in bureaucratic matters takes a toll on the lives of average farmers.

    The problem in Himachal is everything is viewed from the party angle. If BJP minister comes with a hail gun idea, Congress is supposed to oppose it subtly or overtly.

    The points raised in the articles are very strong and hopefully those in powers will respond to these with an open mind.

    Reply
  6. Surender   June 17, 2010 at 5:45 am

    I wish there was some snow gun also to increase snow fall in the region. Or there was some gun to convert hail into snow. But hail normally targets during this time of the year.

    Reply
  7. Surender   June 17, 2010 at 5:45 am

    I wish there was some snow gun also to increase snow fall in the region. Or there was some gun to convert hail into snow. But hail normally targets during this time of the year.

    Reply
  8. Surender   June 17, 2010 at 5:45 am

    I wish there was some snow gun also to increase snow fall in the region. Or there was some gun to convert hail into snow. But hail normally targets during this time of the year.

    Reply
  9. Shagun Thakur   June 17, 2010 at 5:54 am

    A very good link on the topic. Read this

    Reply
  10. Shagun Thakur   June 17, 2010 at 5:54 am

    A very good link on the topic. Read this

    Reply
  11. Shagun Thakur   June 17, 2010 at 11:24 am

    A very good link on the topic. Read this

    Reply
  12. Pingback: Tweets that mention Anti hail guns: are they really needed in Himachal? | Himachal Live -- Topsy.com

  13. Devender   June 17, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Would be interesting to know the minister's orchards are located at what altitude?

    Reply
  14. Devender   June 17, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Would be interesting to know the minister's orchards are located at what altitude?

    Reply
  15. VarunMe   June 17, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Wonderful article. This needs to be on a national newspaper in all honesty.

    Highlighted para sums it up. add to that, the geography and to factor in the unpredictability of it, how accurate are the radars at predicting hail storms anyways?
    It it can help well then at least its one thing thats good, but who does it help is also important, as highlighted in the article.

    Apple production interesting fact to know
    China 29 million tonnes
    India 2 million tonnes
    2nd place is USA at 4.4 million tonnes
    http://faostat.fao.org/site/567/DesktopDefault.as

    good site for various statistics like yield,production,seed, and harvest area of various food products not only apple.

    Reply
  16. VarunMe   June 17, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Wonderful article. This needs to be on a national newspaper in all honesty.

    Highlighted para sums it up. add to that, the geography and to factor in the unpredictability of it, how accurate are the radars at predicting hail storms anyways?
    It it can help well then at least its one thing thats good, but who does it help is also important, as highlighted in the article.

    Apple production interesting fact to know
    China 29 million tonnes
    India 2 million tonnes
    2nd place is USA at 4.4 million tonnes
    http://faostat.fao.org/site/567/DesktopDefault.as

    good site for various statistics like yield,production,seed, and harvest area of various food products not only apple.

    Reply
  17. VarunMe   June 17, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Wonderful article. This needs to be on a national newspaper in all honesty.

    Highlighted para sums it up. add to that, the geography and to factor in the unpredictability of it, how accurate are the radars at predicting hail storms anyways?
    It it can help well then at least its one thing thats good, but who does it help is also important, as highlighted in the article.

    Apple production interesting fact to know
    China 29 million tonnes
    India 2 million tonnes
    2nd place is USA at 4.4 million tonnes
    http://faostat.fao.org/site/567/DesktopDefault.as

    good site for various statistics like yield,production,seed, and harvest area of various food products not only apple.

    Reply
  18. Bonjour   June 17, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Friends, thanks for your support.
    @ Surender: Cloud seeding works for rains as well as snowfall. So Cheers 🙂

    Well, its not about minister's orchards, Its about common man i am worried. No matter how much we try to avert the hailstones, they are going to damage the crop to an extent. Authorities should rather concentrate on judiciouly using the central grant of Rs. 27 crores being siphoned from centre.

    Where as effectiveness is concerned, there have been examples in past in an European countries (Europe is badly affected by hail stones), where, for two consecutive years hail was averted but the third year onwards hail coudn't be stoped. Perhaps, modern advanced technolgy may provide some relief. But, As compare to Italy which has an average 60 days of hail stone shower, we have only 3 days annualy.(Cummulative time of hail spells, i think). The Govt. should really rethink the technological option available.
    @ Varun: The figures are startling but they they seems to be amusing when you compare the per Ha. production and the market price. 🙂

    Thanks and Regards

    Bonjour

    Reply
  19. Bonjour   June 17, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Friends, thanks for your support.
    @ Surender: Cloud seeding works for rains as well as snowfall. So Cheers 🙂

    Well, its not about minister's orchards, Its about common man i am worried. No matter how much we try to avert the hailstones, they are going to damage the crop to an extent. Authorities should rather concentrate on judiciouly using the central grant of Rs. 27 crores being siphoned from centre.

    Where as effectiveness is concerned, there have been examples in past in an European countries (Europe is badly affected by hail stones), where, for two consecutive years hail was averted but the third year onwards hail coudn't be stoped. Perhaps, modern advanced technolgy may provide some relief. But, As compare to Italy which has an average 60 days of hail stone shower, we have only 3 days annualy.(Cummulative time of hail spells, i think). The Govt. should really rethink the technological option available.
    @ Varun: The figures are startling but they they seems to be amusing when you compare the per Ha. production and the market price. 🙂

    Thanks and Regards

    Bonjour

    Reply
  20. Bonjour   June 17, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Friends, thanks for your support.
    @ Surender: Cloud seeding works for rains as well as snowfall. So Cheers 🙂

    Well, its not about minister's orchards, Its about common man i am worried. No matter how much we try to avert the hailstones, they are going to damage the crop to an extent. Authorities should rather concentrate on judiciouly using the central grant of Rs. 27 crores being siphoned from centre.

    Where as effectiveness is concerned, there have been examples in past in an European countries (Europe is badly affected by hail stones), where, for two consecutive years hail was averted but the third year onwards hail coudn't be stoped. Perhaps, modern advanced technolgy may provide some relief. But, As compare to Italy which has an average 60 days of hail stone shower, we have only 3 days annualy.(Cummulative time of hail spells, i think). The Govt. should really rethink the technological option available.
    @ Varun: The figures are startling but they they seems to be amusing when you compare the per Ha. production and the market price. 🙂

    Thanks and Regards

    Bonjour

    Reply
  21. Narad   June 17, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    The minister's fixation with the hail guns reminds me of the Murugun of the Quick Gun Murugun fame. The minister has turned into Hail Gun Murugun 🙂

    Jokes apart but is there any human resource in the government who can relate to this article and most importantly stand up to the minister against his Hail Gun fixation?

    I would like to congratulate the author for bursting the myth of increased apple production in the state. Encroachments on forest land is blatent and open. We all know the majority of encroachments has been done in the present horticulture minister's and the former Congress chief minister's constituency. The government is now rewarding them with a shield of technology. Comic indeed.

    What can one expect from a govt which had promised all enchroachers to regularise all enchroachments!!

    Reply
  22. Narad   June 17, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    The minister's fixation with the hail guns reminds me of the Murugun of the Quick Gun Murugun fame. The minister has turned into Hail Gun Murugun 🙂

    Jokes apart but is there any human resource in the government who can relate to this article and most importantly stand up to the minister against his Hail Gun fixation?

    I would like to congratulate the author for bursting the myth of increased apple production in the state. Encroachments on forest land is blatent and open. We all know the majority of encroachments has been done in the present horticulture minister's and the former Congress chief minister's constituency. The government is now rewarding them with a shield of technology. Comic indeed.

    What can one expect from a govt which had promised all enchroachers to regularise all enchroachments!!

    Reply
  23. G Chauhan   June 18, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Any sort of technology is definitely welcome. But let us also be aware of the fact that the haphazard environmental conditions as existing in the Himalayan eco-system currently will significantly lessen the impact these can make(owing to technical difficulties like early detection of hailstorm formation when faced with abrupt climate changes etc.,other factors like cost involved in installation & maintenance, proper technical knowhow & training etc.).
    So yes these technologies are definitely welcome, but I feel as of now these can at best make a small contribution only under the present context.
    The biggest impact can only be made by restoring the large scale damages done to the eco-system & that requires reforestation drive on a massive scale. Once this is done, only then we can proceed to next level & take the aid of these technologies to further increase productivity levels. But hoping for an all weather solution with the standalone use of these technologies would be asking for too much.
    So what I feel is that right context has to be set initially before these technologies can be operated effectively & practically.

    Reply
  24. G Chauhan   June 18, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Any sort of technology is definitely welcome. But let us also be aware of the fact that the haphazard environmental conditions as existing in the Himalayan eco-system currently will significantly lessen the impact these can make(owing to technical difficulties like early detection of hailstorm formation when faced with abrupt climate changes etc.,other factors like cost involved in installation & maintenance, proper technical knowhow & training etc.).
    So yes these technologies are definitely welcome, but I feel as of now these can at best make a small contribution only under the present context.
    The biggest impact can only be made by restoring the large scale damages done to the eco-system & that requires reforestation drive on a massive scale. Once this is done, only then we can proceed to next level & take the aid of these technologies to further increase productivity levels. But hoping for an all weather solution with the standalone use of these technologies would be asking for too much.
    So what I feel is that right context has to be set initially before these technologies can be operated effectively & practically.

    Reply
  25. Pingback: Anti-hail guns: Are they really needed?… and other news « Shimla Daily News

  26. Rominder Dhaulta   May 5, 2011 at 4:28 am

    We Indians are in a habbit to crticise those who think differently and think out of the box.People who challenge convention are most of the time cricised by those who never do anything. The same has happened in case of Anti hail guns in Jubbal Kotkhai. Mr. Bragta thought out of the box and installed Anti hail guns to prevent Apple orchards from the wrath of hails,though the project is in experimental stage it may have certain initial kick backs till the time it is fully established. I have one question for the critics that what has the previous Government done in the last 50 years to protect apple orchards from hails.It is easy to cricise than to do something. let us be a sport and appreciate the effort of the present Government and instead come up and boost the present government to install more anti hail guns.
    Lets us keep politics out and development in.. than only we will prosper.

    Reply
  27. Devinder Bragta   June 3, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    i m i m gone through the view of all above Sh. Narinder Bragta is person who has some thought for apple growers and placed new idea but i m murcy on the mentality of the people instead of encouraging the projection implemented by Sh Narinder Bragta we are ignoring the facts we do not have to give any tax/ money for the implementation of thses guns this is free facility to the farmers this is the mentality of our indian that facility which is available to us in free we dont consider its value if we have to pay some thing for it than perhaps our our for these anti hailguns have been faverable.

    Reply

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