Wednesday 24 April 2019
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Truth, lies and propaganda against anti hail guns in HP

Before we start unfolding the truth about efficiency and effective use of anti hail gun, we should know what is it, how it works and the mechanism behind its functioning. Anti hail gun, as the name suggests, is a huge acetylene gas belching canon that thwarts the formation of hails during initial phases in the thick clouds. In a modern anti hail gun, an explosive charge of acetylene gas and air is ignited in the lower chamber of the machine. The energy, thus generated, passes through the neck and it further takes the form of a shockwave that once fired travels at the speed of sound through the cloud formations above and disrupts the growth phase of hailstones. The gas is fired after every four seconds, which, as the manufacturers claim, makes hailstones fall as rain. However, anti hail gun is ineffective in changing the form of already developed and solidified hailstone and its maximum area of effect is 500 square meters directly above with 50-50 chances of successfully averting the hail.

As the upper Shimla belt remains dependent on apple growing to make its living over the years, the crop is damaged massively almost every year due to inclement weather conditions and by hail stones in particular. So the fruit growing belt desperately needs a mechanism or a device that can rid apple growers of the wrath of hailstorms. Anti hail gun provided a ray of hope to apple growers but not for a long time as the device failed to deliver repeatedly. However, this isn’t the only thing that could save fruit crops from the hailstones. So the question arises why only anti hail gun, particularly when there are little or no scientific evidences for their effectiveness.

Owing to the fact that inclement weather conditions have tormented the farmers of the area for a long time, the idea of installing anti hail guns in the apple belt was conceived by the BJP govt. when it came to power in the last assembly elections. The ruling BJP Govt. cleared the proposal of a US based company in 2010 to install anti hail guns to protect fruit growers from inclement weather conditions. On the request of the state, central govt. also allowed state to take the initiative to install the guns under a pilot project and also sanctioned Rs 3 crores for it.

However, the plan was inapt for many reasons. In order to save apple crop from hails, the BJP govt. was planning to install 40 guns and 4 radars to operate them. The range of each gun is not beyond 500 meters (80-90 hectares) in any case, which means 40 guns will cover the maximum area of 3500-4000 hectares, whereas the total area for the apple crop in the state is about 90,000 hectares. Meaning, the said No. of anti hail guns will provide protection for merely 4.5% area under apple crop that too with 50-50 chances of making hails come down as rain. On the other hand, it is a known fact that guns are most effective when installed on an altitude ranging between 2500 and 4000 meters. Apple gardens planted at this height are majorly encroached forest land, which means BJP govt. was protecting the interests of those a few who were actually responsible for the local climatic change. What a pity!

Now the question arises where the project has reached currently? Three anti hail guns have been installed in the fruit growing belt of Shimla under the pilot project in Jubbal, Kotkhai and Rohru areas, whereas a radar station was set up at Tumdoo at an altitude of 10000 feet near Khadapathar. The initial experiments have been deemed successful by Narindra Bragta but guns failed to deliver in 2010 as well as last year in the months of April and May wherein the apple crops worth crores of rupees were bashed up by recurrent hail and storm, leaving farmers with no other option than to watch the destruction of their crops as mute spectators. Some areas were affected this year too with no relief provided by anti hail guns whatsoever.

Now these incidents remind me of a famous proverb ‘actions speak louder than words’ about the much touted anti hail guns. They didn’t shoot when their need was felt the most to protect apple crop from the wrath of the hails. Call it human error or the lack of uninterrupted power supply to keep the gadgetry functioning, these excuses don’t redeem the govt. off the allegations that the crops were damaged miserably. Here goes the word ‘irony’ once again as the farmers didn’t even use nets in their gardens with the hope and trust that anti hail guns will save them this year. Amid the blame game, the apple growers stand losers and those who they gave the responsibility to protect their interests owe an answer to the apple growing community.

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3 thoughts on “Truth, lies and propaganda against anti hail guns in HP

  1. Vickhyat Chauhan

    Anti hail gun , well for apple growers Anti hail gun is something which has banged them right-left-up- down everywhere. Useless and non demanding unsuccessful effort by govt. Introducing Anti hail gun has not just effected apples but also the homes which are near the towers of Anti hail gun. last year my grand mother said that she has never seen so much of rain and hailing in her whole life and when i asked her that what can be a reason for this ,… ha ha she instantly replied son its non another than your latest so called technology Anti hail gun. We all know how dangerous it can be if we try to challenge nature so here i request ministers that they have done all that they can do to destroy nature and a lay man but kindly let us live with what we have earned and dont play with our income sources i.e apples.

  2. RaJesh

    I agree with Vickhyap Chauhan, this technology seems to be harmful rathe being of any good benefit!!!

  3. Sandeep

    Ever since the anti hail guns have been installed in Jubbal-Kotkhai, the government and the opposition are making claims and counter claims regarding the effectiveness of the device in stopping or controlling a hailstorm.

    Before the effectiveness of the device is discussed lets have a look on the developmental history, critical scientific analysis and testimonies of the leading meteorological agencies of the world.

    The first anti hail cannon was developed by Albert Stiger, an Austrian wine merchant, in 1896, to protect his grapes from hailstorm. As the farmers across Europe were badly effected by damage due to hail storm, the anti hail gun without undergoing any scientific tests became an overnight success. Till 1900 about ten thousand anti hail guns were employed in Europe. At a hail conference in Lyon in 1901, many different makes of cannon were offered for sale. Due to inconsistent and unreliable results most of the farmers lost their confidence in the device and sold it in scrap. Systematic and organized experiments conducted before 1906 were very discouraging and the anti hail gun market of Europe perished completely. In 1972 french company Corballan started the production of Stiger anti hail cannon.

    Manufacturers of hail cannons quote in their sale leaflet as official proof of cannon effectiveness an experiment in the Emmental valley, Switzerland. That experiment was done by the Fruit Culture Station in Oeschberg. Unfortunately, no hailpads were located at shorter distances from the active hail cannon than 400 m, and local
    hailfall tracks were not documented. For these and other reasons the Swiss investigators judged their results to be inconclusive (MAURER, 1987). Most cases show some trend with distance, but that could well be an orographic effect.

    So far scientists have failed to justify how the anti hail cannon works. Most of the researchers call it a pseudo scientific device which cannot be explained by any physical principal or credible hypothesis. Many researchers have tested the pressure shock generated by the explosion of compressed acetylene gas. A pressure shock of 300hPa ( hectopascal, pascal is unit of pressure and 1 pascal is equal to 1 kg pressure applied on one square meter area.) is needed to disrupt formation of a hail. In laboratory experiments meteorologists have found the pressure shock of just 100 hPa at a distance of 100 meters MASON, 1975; RASMUSSEN and HEYMSFIELD, 1987).

    World Meteorological Organization in its annual report of Expert Committee on Weather Modification states that “Some methods, such as hail cannons or ionization devices, have no physical basis and are not recommended.”

    There is not even an iota of doubt that the anti hail gun is ineffective and rather misleading. Anybody who is claiming it to be effective should come up with empirical data and a credible scientific principle which can prove the working of the anti hail gun.

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