RIYADH: The first phase of a cloud-seeding operation was officially launched on Tuesday by Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli, the Saudi minister of environment, water and agriculture and chair of the National Center of Meteorology. It is taking place in the skies over Riyadh, Qassim and Hail regions.
The Council of Ministers approved the artificial seeding project recently in an effort to increase the amount of rainfall in the Kingdom, one of the driest countries in the world, which currently stands at less that 100 millimeters a year.
Ayman Ghulam, the CEO of the NCM and supervisor of the cloud-seeding program, said that its operations room opened on Monday at the center’s headquarters in Riyadh and the first flights took place in the region surrounding the capital. They achieved their goals, he added, in terms of the results and timing of the seeding operations, and the center will issue periodic updates on progress.
Work will continue around the clock in the operations room, he said, which uses the most advanced meteorological equipment and techniques and is staffed by international cloud-seeding experts and technical and logistical support workers. It will monitor cloud formations over the Kingdom to determine the best locations for seeding efforts, using “environmentally friendly” materials, to stimulate precipitation in targeted areas, Ghulam added.
It is hoped that the project, which utilizes a safe, flexible and cost-effective technology, will play its part in efforts to maintain the water balance in Saudi Arabia, he said. The second phase will include Asir, Al-Baha and Taif regions. The program also includes research, the evaluation of expertise, localization efforts and transfer of knowledge in the field.
The cloud-seeding operation is one of the results of the Middle East Green Initiative Summit, which took place in October, following the announcement of the initiative by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March last year. It is part of a series of integrated national and regional projects that aim to promote sustainable development, preserve the environment, secure new water resources and increase the Kingdom’s natural capabilities. It is also designed to reduce desertification and increase green spaces in accordance with the aims of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development plan.