CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija (PNA) – At least 100 people, including farmers and irrigation officials, were commissioned as spotters of clouds for a cloud-seeding operation to boost Pantabangan Dam’s water reserve.
Engineer Rosalinda Bote, department manager of the National Irrigation Administration-Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation System ( NIA-UPRIIS), said that, as of Saturday, the water level of Pantabangan Dam was at 182 meters above sea level (masl), way below the 201 masl compared to that at start of September in 2019, and the 210 masl by end-October target.
“We organized almost 100 cloud spotters within Nueva Ecija,” Bote said, adding these people take real time photographs of clouds in their respective areas through GPS-enhanced phones.
The photos were being sent to the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for assessment and prioritization.
Bote said NIA administrator Ricardo Visaya has issued a green light to the activity to induce rains over Pantabangan reservoir or watershed in preparation for the dry crop season of 2021.
The agency initially allocated P2.64 million from its calamity fund for the cloud-seeding activity.
The NIA-UPRIIS has initially procured 900 bags of salt, she said.
The carrier had conducted a familiarization flight over the area, she added.
“Ito namang wet season so far ay makakaraos naman na at the same at may umaani na (We are ‘surviving’ this wet season so far and at the same time there are those who are already harvesting,” Bote said, adding almost 4,000 hectares of rice-field have already been harvested.
But they continued that minimal release of irrigation water may be needed even as most crops have already passed reproductive stage, she added.
Based on the advice of the government weather bureau, it expects slight La Niña from October this year to January of 2021.
But the scarcity of rains in the last months made them leaning on induced water to make sure they can irrigate the entire 140,000-hectare service area come summer.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar earlier said cloud-seeding will ensure a “respectable rice harvest in Central Luzon, particularly in Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Bulacan, and Tarlac.”
“For this joint effort, we thank the NIA, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), and the Philippine Army’s Fort Magsaysay,” DA-BSWM Director Sonia Salguero said in her report to Dar.