Union Minister of State for Environment Mahesh Sharma has said the Centre is planning to induce artificial rain through cloud seeding if the air quality in Delhi does not improve, ANI reported on Tuesday.

The air quality in the national Capital remained “very poor” with the overall Air Quality Index showing a reading of 349, according to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research or SAFAR. Artificial rain is expected to help wash away pollutants from the atmosphere and improve air quality.

“Increasing menace of air pollution is a big concern for a developing country like India,” Sharma said. “The Centre has decided that if the air quality will cross 500 mark then they will ask authorities to induce artificial rain or cloud seeding over the capital,” he said, adding that preparations for artificial rain are under way.

An unidentified senior government official told PTI that cloud seeding for artificial rain would be done once meteorological conditions are stable. He said artificial rain would be induced this week if the meteorological conditions are suitable, and if not, it will be done next week.

Cloud seeding is the process of combining chemical agents, including silver iodide, dry ice and even common table salt, to condense clouds and increase the chance of rainfall.

The Central Pollution Control Board said 20 areas in Delhi recorded “very poor” air quality and 13 areas recorded “poor” air quality on Tuesday. The level of PM 2.5 (particles in the air with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres) was 227, while the level of PM 10 was recorded at 358.

According to SAFAR, the air quality is expected to remain in the “poor” category without any significant deterioration, reported ANI. On Monday, Delhi’s air quality was “very poor”.

Last year, the Delhi government had proposed sprinkling water from a helicopter to reduce dust. Pollution control experts had then said that aerial spraying of water to tackle dust pollution in a city the size of Delhi has not been attempted anywhere in the world.