Font size increaseFont size decrease

Article: Enhancing rainfall could help us conserve water and replenish arid land

Alya Al Mazroui

World Day to Combat Desertification

"Enhancing rainfall could help us conserve water and replenish arid land"

Every year since 1995, the World Day to Combat Desertification has been observed on 17 June as a means of enhancing public awareness about the international campaign to fight desertification and drought.

Inspired by a United Nations General Assembly resolution, this initiative promotes the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in affected countries by engaging governments, international organizations, NGOs and other stakeholders through a range of outreach activities around the world.

Under the theme ‘Our Land. Our Home. Our Future’, this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification will focus on the vulnerability of the agricultural land crucial to the sustainability and stability of countries at risk from desertification. Due to climate change and human agency, it is estimated that desertification affects one-quarter of the world’s total land area and, potentially, threatens almost one-sixth of the world’s population located in arid and semi-arid regions.

The UAE is deeply aware of the threat of desertification given its location in an arid environment. The country has been built on a rich heritage of traditional practice and knowledge accumulated over generations in the management of water and other natural resources. The historical context of this struggle to master a difficult environment means that the UAE can bring unique perspectives to the challenge of sustainability.

Reflecting this tradition of working in harmony with nature to mitigate the challenges of drought and desertification, the UAE government initiated the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science in 2015 under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs of the UAE.

By offering an annual award of US $ 5 million to up to five research proposals submitted by successful awardees, the Program is already advancing scientific understanding in this field.

In keeping with the UAE’s Innovation Strategy, this initiative represents the UAE’s ambition to advance and lead the development of rain enhancement science through the most advanced technologies and solutions. The Program is already advancing scientific understanding through new knowledge of cloud formation, precipitation production, and other related processes. Through these activities, we are also fulfilling the equally important goal of developing local and global capacities while encouraging and supporting productive research collaboration.

Rain enhancement has the potential to offer a more cost-effective, more sustainable, and a much less environmentally damaging option than other solutions such as desalination. In addition, technological advancements could ensure that rain enhancement becomes an even safer and more affordable technique to enhance water supplies in the future.

For example, a study in North Dakota in the United States proves that rain enhancement can increase local wheat crop yields by nearly 6 per cent. Scientists in the UAE have estimated that cloud seeding operations can enhance rainfall by as much as 30-35 per cent in a clear atmosphere, and by up to 10-15 per cent in a turbid atmosphere.

The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science’s outstanding success in driving global rain enhancement research was recently demonstrated by its Third Cycle call for submissions: a total of 201 research pre-proposals were received that incorporated the latest ideas from 710 researchers, scientists and experts belonging to 316 research institutions, located in 68 countries spread across five continents. The number of pre-proposals for the current cycle increased 120% compared with last year.

The Program therefore promises to generate results that could make a real difference for countries threatened by drought. Through its leadership in advancing science and technology, the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science is making a real difference in tackling the urgent challenges highlighted by the World Day to Combat Desertification.

Through this Program, the UAE will use its immense innovative capacities to help those at risk by providing the solutions to ensure a better quality of life for all in arid regions around the world.