Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force (IRGC AF) is to mount a cloud seeding programme utilising drones to address the country’s ever-worsening drought.
In recent years, Iran has used the cloud seeding weather modification technique on a few occasions in Tehran and other cities to help disperse smog and fill depleted reservoirs. However, each exercise costs in the tens of millions of dollars and is dogged by a real risk of failure when up against Iran’s arid climate. The World Resources Institute says that Iran will be among the world's 33 most water-stressed countries by 2040.
The Iranians are currently contending with their driest winter in more than 30 years. With rain-starved farmers and the general population looking increasingly desperate—in rural areas public prayers-for-rain sessions have been held outside mosques—IRGC AF Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh agreed that his air force will cooperate with the environment ministry in seeding clouds with chemicals that intensify precipitation, according to a Iran Front Page (IFP) report on January 21.
Iran’s state meteorological organisation says that rainfall in some provinces has fallen by 81% over the past year, while Tehran has received 50% less precipitation than in recent years.
Iranian Deputy Energy Minister Rahim Meidani has lately warned that the situation overall is unprecedented in comparison to the past 50 years. Rainfall volume could only be said to be normal in two northern provinces, Gilan and Mazandaran, which benefit from the Caspian Sea weather system, he noted.
Overpopulation, climate change, poor agricultural practices and outdated farming machinery are cited as core reasons behind the worsening drought patterns.
The smog situation in Tehran has been exacerbated this winter because the rain and snow which usually starts in late November has been so scarce. Since last October, it has only snowed once in Tehran, in northern parts of the city.
The pollution issue in the capital city of 15mn people becomes much worse during daylight hours due to the metropolis being surrounded by the Alborz mountain range. It acts as a wall which traps the cold winter air heavy with pollutants.
In December, Tehran was put on red alert due to the intensity of the smog. Kindergartens, schools and universities shut for long periods as it blanketed the Iranian capital.
Air pollution costs Iran more than €30bn a year in lost working time, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report estimated in 2016.