China, the world’s second-largest economy, is pouring 1.6 billion yuan into a program aimed at making it rain in its usually arid northwestern region. According to China’s National Development and Reform Commission, a feasibility study by the China Meteorological Administration found that rainfall and snow could be increased in an area of 960,000 sq km, 10% of the country’s territory, if the proposed investments were made. The commission approved the budget to buy four new planes, upgrade eight existing aircraft, develop 897 rocket launch devices and connect 1,856 devices to digital control systems. The whole project will take three years. The usual practice of making rain is to use aircraft or rockets to “seed” clouds with catalysts such as dry ice to induce or increase rainfall to relieve the drought. But weather modification by firing chemicals into the clouds has become more frequent across the country in recent years for various purposes including, improving weather for major public events to cooling hot air in summer. As smog has become a major problem for many cities, rainmaking has become a popular way to “clean up” the air. For this project in the northwestern region that encompasses Ningxia, Gansu, Qinghai, and Xinjiang provinces, China needs to refill some of its most important water resources. According to the Qinghai Provincial Climate Center, the weather phenomenon El Nino left the upper reaches of the Yellow River “dry to very dry” throughout 2016. The 5,464 km long Yellow River, which is often referred to as the cradle of Chinese civilization, originates in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and runs from west to east through the northern part of China, feeding much of the agriculture in that part of the country. The Tangnaihai water station, located near the Yellow River’s source, reported that 2016 was the driest year since 2003, with water levels dropping by more than 30 percent between June and September. Similarly, the Yangtze River’s source is located in Qinghai province and flows southeast via Yunnan and then eastwards where it discharges into the ocean at Shanghai. It is the longest river in Asia and a major shipping thoroughfare, contributing an approximate 20 percent of China’s GDP. Both rivers are integral to both the agriculture and water supply of the country. While there’s little official information about China’s water supply issues, Probe International reports that four-fifths of China’s water is in the south, most notably the Yangtze River basin, while half of China’s people and two-thirds of its farmland are in the north, where the Yellow River basin is located. It’s interesting to note that cloud seeding has never really been scientifically proven to work. Despite the fact it is practiced widely around the world, the effectiveness of cloud seeding is still a matter of academic debate, saying there is no significant statistical data backs up the supposed science. However, He Shengcun, an official at the Qinghai provincial government’s “weather influencing” office, told China News Service that between 2006 to 2016, cloud seeding had increased rainfall by 55 billion cubic meters. (Sources: Fortune, The Diplomat)