Cloud seeding fails to ease drought effects in Zamboanga City; prayers urged
ZAMBOANGA CITY – Cloud seeding has failed to provide relief to drought-stricken areas here and there is nothing that could be done, except to pray for divine intervention to ease the impact of the drought, according to local officials.
For 12 days until February 28, the government – through the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) and the Philippine Air Force – conducted cloud seeding operations but the effect was hardly felt – even after spending about P1.3 million.
Teotimo Reyes Jr., the department manager of water production of the Zamboanga City Water District (ZCWD), said the situation in the fields did not improve even after the cloud seeding operations.
“We did not see or experience any increase in the water stream, the ground (remains) very dry,” Reyes said.
Maribel Enriquez, PAGASA’s chief meteorologist here, said cloud seeding resulted in rains but the rains were not enough to compensate for the water shortage in farms and lack of moisture in plants.
Engineer Lorenzo Moron, PAGASA’s project coordination officer, said 100 sacks of salt were used in the 12-day cloud seeding.
Air Force Captain Von Ryan Timbang, who led and supervised the flying sorties, said they flew an average of four two-hour sorties each day.
But Reyes said the water level at the district’s diversion dam has continued to decline and as of Tuesday, it was at 73.84 meters, 0.36 meter below than the normal operating level of 74.20 meters.
“That’s the water level for the last two days,” Reyes said.
This has prompted the water district to shorten its water service to about seven hours a day, said Reyes.
Eighty percent of the ZCWD’s water supply comes from the Tumaga River.
The devastation on farmlands here has been enormous, Diosdado Palacat, the city agriculturist, said.
Mayor Ma. Isabelle Salazar confirmed that cloud seeding did not help much in improving the conditions in farms.
She urged residents to continue praying the Oratio Imperata, a set of prayers aimed at seeking divine intervention during a calamity.
“Although we would have really expected wonders, we just realized the difficulty of the tasks,” Salazar said.
Moron said the cloud seeding might not have worked but it has helped PAGASA “increase and advance scientific understanding of the operational aspect of cloud seeding… and we were able to test the effectiveness of the seeding agent.”
In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, regional agriculture secretary Alexander Alonto said they have been conducting cloud seeding operations, with crop damage now expected to increase from P140 million.
He said at least 27,000 farmers in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan have suffered from the dry spell and its other effects, including the prevalence of rodent attacks.
“We can’t really avoid dry spell from happening and we are asking farmers to brace themselves and to understand what the government can offer,” he said.
Alonto said the regional government has started distributing rodenticides and heat-resistant seeds that farmers could use in the next planting season.
ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman told the Philippine Daily Inquirer the drought was also drying up government resources.
“You know, hunger can greatly affect one’s sanity,” Pombaen Karon, the regional social welfare secretary, said on reports that a farmer recently killed himself after suffering heavy losses from the drought.
Karon expressed alarm over the situation as more families were going hungry as farms were being devastated by the dry spell.
Hataman said the regional emergency assistance center has already started providing relief to affected areas in the region. Families were given food packs that could help them survive the dry spell, he said.
For 65-year old Maguindanao farmer, Abugantao Saidona, the assistance was very much welcome as “I don’t have an alternative livelihood to farming, which provides for my family’s needs.”
But like many farmers in the region, Saidona said he would like to start planting again.
“Right now, I hope for the rain to come,” he said. SFM
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