Cloud Seeding or the Sword of Voltus V

The Japanese anime Voltus V

The Japanese anime Voltus V

14ymedio biggerGeneration Y, Yoani Sanchez, 28 August 2015 — Undone, with the sparks of short circuits clouding his vision and the cabin smashed into smithereens, Voltus V faced the worst end against a fearsome enemy. However, at the last minute, he drew his sword and in a clean cut slew his enemy. Japanese anime, so popular on the island during the eighties, seems to have inspired the Cuban authorities in their tendencies to hold off on certain solutions until a problem has already resulted in the worst ravages.

This has happened with the recent announcement that, as of this coming September 15, a campaign will begin to “artificially increase the rain.” Through a technique known as “cloud seeding,” Pyrocartridges will be launched from a Russian Yak-40 plane so that the water vapor particles will condense, and this condensation will produce precipitation, according to the official press.

The first reaction of many on reading the news was to wonder why they hadn’t done something like this earlier. Did the country have to get to its current state of hydrological emergency for Voltus V to draw his sword? With the dams at no more than 36% of capacity and 25 reservoirs completely dry–at the so-called “death point”–now the experts from the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH) propose to bombard the clouds?

The answers to these questions not only alert us to the insolvency and inefficiency of our state apparatus to handle certain issues, but also clearly indicate that they have not been up to the task to preserve this valuable resource. As long as leaks and breaks in the country’s water system continue to waste more than 50% of the water pumped, no water project will be sustainable.

As long as leaks and breaks in the country’s water system continue to waste more than 50% of the water pumped, no water project will be sustainable.

On the other hand, it is worth questioning how water management has been approached for decades in our nation, which has prioritized the creation of large reservoirs. This decision has ended up damaging the riverbeds of the countless dammed rivers and has reduced the sediment they carry to the coasts, with the consequent erosion of flora and fauna in the deltas.

­Of course, many of these reservoirs–now below half their capacity, or totally dry–were built at a time when the Hydrologist-in-Chief made decisions about every detail of our lives. The marks of his excesses and harebrained schemes are still apparent in our country, excesses that failed to give our people more food, more water and more freedom.

The marks of excesses and harebrained schemes are still apparent in our country, excesses that failed to give our people more food, more water and more freedom

So enormous public works of damming the rivers and streams were undertaken to the detriment of other solutions that would have helped us to ease the current situation. Among them, investments in wastewater treatment and the desalination of seawater, which surrounds us on all sides. Every hydrological bet in the country was placed on one card: the rain. Now, we are losing the game.

If the announcement of “cloud seeding” had been made in a country with an environmental movement, we would see protests in the street. The method is not as innocuous as the newspaper Granma wants us to think. In fact, the critics of this practice consider it “an alteration of the normal rhythm of nature,” and argue that interference with moisture in one part of the country could compromise the rain pattern elsewhere.

Looking up to see whether or not the rains come, we Cubans are waiting for something more than a crop of clouds altered with a blast of silver iodide. We deserve a coherent hydrology policy, over the long term, without magic or spells, but with guarantees. May the next drought not find us like Voltus V, destroyed and thirsty, raising an arm to draw our majestic sword… that we haven’t carried for a long time.

17 thoughts on “Cloud Seeding or the Sword of Voltus V

  1. EVALUATION OF CUBA’S WATER AND WASTE WATER INFRASTRUCTURE INCLUDING HIGH – PRIORITY IMPROVEMENTS AND ORDER OF MAGNITUDE COSTS – Josenrique Cueto and Omar De Leon – This document reflects the collective guidance and review comments from individuals both within and outside the University of Miami Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering.

    The nation of Cuba faces many challenges as it moves into the future. Aside from ec o- nomic hardships and political issues the country must contend with ailing and often obsolete infrastructure. Among the infr a- structure systems of greatest concern are the water and wastewater systems. These two systems are essential for the health and well being of citizens.

    Ground Water The nation of Cuba benefits from a sizable amount of groundwater totaling an estimated 6.4 billion cubic meters. Groundwater in Cuba is mostly found within carbonate rocks and is of the calcium – bicarbonate type. There are several regions of the country in which groundwater is predominantly used (Cereijo, 1992). These regions include La Habana, Matanzas, Ciego de Avila, and Camaguey. In total, groundwater accounts for approximately 35% of all available water usage in the country (Cubagua, 2007). A breakdow n of water accessibility by pro v- ince is provided in Table 1. Accessible water is defined as water that can be readily o b- tained through the country’s existing infr a- structure.

    Most of the existing water distribution ne t- works on the island of Cuba have an average lifespan of more than 75 years (Cereijo, 1992). According to ―Granma‖, the official newspaper of the government in Cuba, more than 50% of the water pumpe d through the distribution system is lost due to deteriorated piping (BBC, 2009). The most affected city, according to the newspaper, is Santiago, where in some cases citizens do not receive water for several days. GEEAL has made up to an average of 18,000 pipe repairs a month, yet these efforts have not been effe c- tive since once a repair has been made a leak appears elsewhere in the pipeline. In add i- tion to the challenges associated with the pipe networks, pump stations have been u n- reliable due to breakdow ns in equipment and


  2. All Caribbean nations struggle with the shortage of water (check Haiti, Jamaica, Dom Rep).

    But only in one nation a group of trouble makers attempts to earn some hard currency by their “criticism”. The so called “freedom foundations” pay nothing to bloggers from Haiti, Jamaica, Dom Rep.

  3. Yoani,
    Instead of focusing so much on criticism of Cuban governance, how about talking about possible solutions like where can Cuba obtain funds for all the things that you criticize the government for not doing…this will be a mark improvement instead of whining all the time about what Cubans don’t have…the Cuban government is actively engage in searching for financial sources all over the World that don’t compromise Cuba’s independence and sovereignty. Cuba is tapping into the United Nation grants available to the nations of the World to deal with Global Warming…slowly …14YMedio and your blogs are being recognized more for your whining than for serious journalism…..please…get back on track ….and show a more balance approach…there is enough media sources in the internet with bias information….


    REUTERS: Cuba on edge as drought worsens – By Marc Frank

    Cuba put its civil defense system on alert on Monday due to a year-long drought that is forecast to worsen in the coming months and has already damaged agriculture and left more than a million people relying on trucked-in water.

    ommunist-run Cuba loses around 50 percent of the water pumped from its reservoirs due to leaks. There is little irrigation of farm land and the systems that exist are outdated and inefficient.

    Drought conditions across the Caribbean, caused by the phenomenon known as El Nino, have left reservoirs at 37 percent of capacity.

    Cuban authorities appear increasingly alarmed by the situation, which could lead to wider 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.

    “The drought is everyone’s problem and so every state entity has to … create a plan immediately,” Chapman Waught, who heads Cuba’s waterworks, said last week as she toured the country.

    This year’s rainy season, which includes the hurricane season, is forecast to bring rains well below the norm due to El Nino.


  5. EFE NEWS AGENCY: Cuban capital facing “critical” water shortage – Sunday, 23 January 2011

    HAVANA – – The supply of potable water in the Cuban capital has reached its most critical state in the last 50 years, with more than 100,000 people dependent on tanker trucks for water and with sources of supply ready to collapse, Communist Party daily Granma said Friday.

    The Havana water system loses 70 percent of the water pumped for consumers before it gets to them, the newspaper said.

    Almost half of Havana’s more than 2 million inhabitants have suffered from serious problems in the basic water-supply system, while some 110,000 people are wholly dependent on deliveries of water by tanker trucks, according to official data cited by Granma.

    The paper said that there has been a “notable drop” in accumulated volumes in aquifers and reservoirs due to the drought over the past two years and the poor functioning of an aqueduct “that has deteriorated over time.”

    “In a more subtle way than hurricanes, this hydrological drought, together with the poor state of some 2,194 kilometers (1,363 miles) of pipelines, almost 71 percent, and other infrastructure problems, is also damaging the nation’s economy,” Granma said.

    “Because of how serious the situation is, the possibility of cutting off service to those who consume more than planned is being evaluated,” Granma said.

  6. CUBA TRANSITION PROJECT – Institute for Cuban & Cuban-American Studies at University of Miami – 2006

    Water Pollution

    According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), water pollution in Cuba is a serious concern, particularly since there is a marked lack of infrastructure to address the issue. Of the 2,160 main contaminant sources recognized by UNEP, 1,273 or 59 percent, release their pollution into the Cuban environment without any treatment whatsoever. Another 433, or roughly 20 percent, receive limited but inadequate treatment before being discharged. (2) This analysis included agricultural sources of contamination, as well as industrial and human waste.

    Despite its clear importance to the citizens of Cuba, the treatment of urban sewage in particular is extremely limited: only 17 or 18 percent receives any treatment before discharge into Cuban waterways. (3) The infrastructure of water and sanitation are beyond the breaking point and are close to catastrophic failure. Havana’s sewer system, which was built almost a hundred years ago, has been due for major repairs for almost five decades and is serving over two million citizens, well beyond its design capacity of 400,000. (4)

    The Cuban government has recognized this as a major environmental problem on the island, conceding that “pollution in our ground and marine waters has gradually aggravated…caused mainly by the deficient state of the sewerage and its incomplete nature in the majority of cases.” (5) UNEP reported an approximate total of 341,716 tons per year of organic material discharged into Cuban waters, equivalent to the pollution generated by a population of over 22.3 million people. It is worth noting that this level is twice the actual 2005 population of 11.2 million. (6)

    The effects of this system on the Cuban environment have been severe. Cuban bays are widely recognized as being among the most polluted in the world. (7) The Almendares River, which flows through Havana, carries the untreated sewage of over 42,000 people directly to Havana Harbor and coastal waters. (8) There has been evidence that in Havana, an underground aquifer that provides 36% of the city’s potable water that runs directly beneath the polluted Almendares, represents a very high risk of widespread drinking water contamination for the city. (9)

    This is a phenomenon that is being replicated throughout the country: it has been estimated that annually 863.4 billion gallons of contaminated water finds its way into Cuba’s rivers, much of it industrial. (10) A recent study of the groundwater in Moa, usually a naturally protected resource, concluded that a new water source for the population of Moa must be developed quickly, as the present source will be increasingly contaminated with heavy metals much of it from the nickel industry in the medium to long-term. (11) Tourist facilities have also exhibited insufficient treatment regimens, as many either pump waste directly into the sea at some distance from the coast, or use small oxidation pools, and release lightly treated water into the ocean. (12)


  7. We’re going to have to wwait till after the FC/RC era to see if anything basic – water resource management or whatever – changes in Cuba,,,

  8. Havana, June 15 (acn)A wide plan of measures to cope with processes that lead to desertification is being implemented in Cuba, where 76% of its territory is exposed to these processes.The reforestation of some 10,000 hectares per year since 2003 until today, crop rotation and the use of organic fertilizers, contribute to mitigate the impact of these problems that are on the rise around the world today, said engineer Maria Nery Urgiza Rodríguez, Coordinator of the National Group Against Drought and Desertification.

    During the activities to mark the World Day against these scourges, held at the Institute of Fundamental Researches on Tropical Agriculture, Rodríguez highlighted the development of agro-ecological initiatives to fight plagues and to achieve better yields. Preserving the humidity of the soils and stopping erosion are the main goals of actions carried out by the Agriculture and the Sugar Industry ministries, as well as by scientific institutions, she noted. In spite of the US financial, commercial and economic blockade against the island, the work done during over four decades to fight desertification includes a program of reforestation, which has allowed increasing the forest area of the country from 14% in 1959 to almost 25% today.

    Cuba also plays an active role in regional and world meetings dealing with topics such as climate change, biological diversity, protection of the ozone layer, peaceful use of nuclear energy and the fight against pollution.

  9. In recent years, the Cuban government has revived plans that were interrupted by the severe economic crisis of the 1990s, hoping to find a long-term solution to water shortages with engineering works in the eastern and central regions to transfer water from rainy mountain regions to drier areas.

    The strategy includes the construction of reservoirs, canals and pipelines, as well as more than 80 km of mountain tunnels. Once completed, the distribution network will benefit at least nine of the country’s 15 provinces. The programme is considered vital for the eastern region, due to its scarce groundwater reserves.

    “This is adaptation on a major scale, and at a high economic cost. It is also necessary for society to accept that drought is here to stay, and that people must prepare and find solutions, such as having recipients for storing water, or if they have animals, storing forage and having places to move their livestock,” Carlos Rodríguez, a land-use planning and environmental expert, commented to IPS.

    While he noted that Santiago and other parts of eastern Cuba are among the most vulnerable to drought, he said water shortages are also a problem in western provinces such as Havana and parts of Pinar del Río, 160 km from the capital.

    Santiago, a city of about half a million, has six reservoirs. But its water supply was inadequate for decades, and entire generations grew up carrying water to their homes. “Piped water was available every six to 30 days,” INRH official Gerardo Linares told reporters.

    The population grew and water sources became even more insufficient. Moreover, the city’s old, deteriorated water grid presented another obstacle for piping water to people’s homes. But this year, Santiago’s residents have a modern new aqueduct and water purification plant.

  10. In other words…what Cuba need to deal with the water problem is:

    1. Money
    2. Money
    3. Less People living in the island ( Global Warming has placed Cuba in a desertification envelope. NOTE: the more and more model that activism wants is not sustainable)

    At present, the problems with highest impact on society and economy, faced by the hydraulic resource sector in Cuba are:
    1.lack of credit facilities from international lack of credit facilities from international financial agencies financial agencies
    2. 2.obsolescence of water distribution systems in obsolescence of water distribution systems in the urban zones the urban zones
    3. 3.irregular spatial and temporal rain distribution, irregular spatial and temporal rain distribution, with long drought periods, mainly at the eastern with long drought periods, mainly at the eastern region of the country.

  12. Yoani, I don’t agree with your opposition to cloud seeding on envirmental grounds. The technique is used in many countries, has been accepted as a fairly mediocre method to enhance precipitation.

    I had commented that a cloud seeding by the Cuban authorities seemed to be mere propaganda, because the next seven day forecast shows significant rain as a storm travels just north of the island. The current weather pattern shows several low pressure centers moving in from the Atlantic, which will have difficulty organizing into strong cyclones, but should bring a lot of rain as they travel close to or cross the island. This tells me the government is just using propaganda to claim their actions brought the rains.

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