HAVANA, Aug 28 (Reuters) Cuba will begin a two-month cloud-seeding campaign over the eastern part of the Caribbean island in hopes of easing the worst drought in more than a century, Communist Party daily Granma said on Friday.
A Russian Yak-40 aircraft will be ready for action beginning in September, the paper said, with the goal of increasing precipitation in areas that feed into the Cauto River, the country’s largest and the main source of water for area reservoirs.
Cloud seeding involves sprinkling chemicals to increase water condensation and thus rainfall.
“The period from January up to the present has been the driest in terms of precipitation since 1901,” Argelio Fernandez, the director of infrastructure at Cuba’s state-run waterworks, told the Granma.
He said cloud seeding may also begin over central Camaguey province, cattle country, where herds are suffering from hunger and thirst alike.
With reservoirs at around 35 percent of capacity, and in some provinces well below 20 percent, Cuban authorities appear increasingly alarmed with just two months left in the rainy season, which runs from May through October.
Granma said the drought was forecast to persist through March 2016.
Cuba faces water rationing in major cities and hard choices on where water should be allocated with winter planting, the tourism season and sugar milling all beginning in November.
Drought conditions across the Caribbean, caused by the phenomenon known as El Nino, a warming of Pacific waters that affects wind circulation patterns, have created similar situations on other islands.
Tropical storm Danny provided some relief, but it dissipated before reaching Cuba. Tropical storm Erika is forecast to veer North toward the east coast of Florida and only provide limited rainfall in Cuba.
Earlier this month the civil defense system was placed on alert.
More than a million Cubans are already relying on trucked-in water, as are tens of thousands of cattle, and the country is increasing imports of rice and other foods to compensate for damage to agriculture.
The government has not provided a national breakdown of drought damage, but it said earlier this month that emergency measures were being implemented at all levels, including stricter rationing of water through the state-run waterworks.
Cuba loses around 50 percent of the water pumped from its reservoirs to leaks. There is little irrigation of farm land and the systems that exist are outdated and inefficient.