New Delhi: A Chinese hi-tech firm will build and install 12 doppler weather radars, or DWRs, at important Indian ports and cities including the national capital and Mumbai.
Beijing Metstar Radar Co. Ltd, a venture of China National Huayun Technology Development Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the China Meteorological Administration, and US-based Lockheed Martin Corp., outbid Bharat Electronics Ltd, which develops weather radars based on proprietary technology of the Indian Space Research Organisation, and Germany’s Selex Gematronik GmbH, for the contract to install the radars that was awarded by India Meteorological Department, or IMD, on 30 May.
Industry experts say this would make it one of the rare high technology imports from China into India.
“I am not sure it is the first, but definitely one of the first and certainly very important,” said T.S. Vishwanath, who heads the trade policy division of the Confederation of Indian Industry—an industry lobby. “Bilateral trade is dominated by raw materials, and this could pave the way for good quality, affordable technology trade between the two countries.”
Bharat Electronics and Selex Gematronik have previously commissioned weather radars in the country.
Changing climate: The Chinese firm will install 12 doppler weather radars.
However, there are some apprehensions within IMD itself.
“While our technical evaluation company is certainly competent, I hope they have not compromised on quality for cost,” says an IMD scientist not connected with the technical evaluation and selection of firms to supply the radars and who didn’t want to be named.
Without commenting specifically on the deal, IMD chief Ajit Tyagi says IMD will only procure equipment “as per its specific requirements and will never compromise on quality”.
Former IMD chief R.C. Bhatia says these DWRs are of high quality. “The Metstar radar is an upgraded version of the US’ NEXRAD weather radar systems, which is being actively used by the (US) government for their own forecasting systems,” he pointed out.
Metstar radars have been built based on the weather radar technology acquired from Lockheed Martin. Metstar has supplied similar radars for China, Romania and Korea.
“Lockheed Martin is involved and supports international sales of doppler radars, but (it) no longer internationally bids for contracts that involve only the supply of doppler weather radars, having transferred the LM-derived technology to Metstar in the mid-1990s,” Lockheed Martin says in an emailed statement. “Rather than bid directly, Lockheed Martin currently routes all requests like that to Metstar.”
The DWRs, to be set up at Mumbai, Delhi, Agartala, Mohanbari, Paradip, Bhopal, Nagpur, Patna, Lucknow, Karaikal, Patiala and Goa, will be supplied, installed and commissioned by Metstar for about $17.8 million, or about Rs76 crore.
Doppler weather radars have an edge over other weather radar systems because they can measure the speed of a storm or cyclone. The radars the government uses right now provide information only on the range of a storm whereas a DWR system provides data to accurately estimate an approaching storm’s centre and intensity, fixing its position and predicting its path.
“Now it’s DWRs everywhere. Nobody really uses ordinary weather radars,” Tyagi says.
This contract is part of a Rs900 crore modernization plan by IMD, a major part of which involves upgrading weather forecasting equipment. The agency plans to install a network of 55 DWRs, of which 12 will be commissioned by Metstar in the first phase.
Along with DWRs, IMD is also buying 550 automatic weather stations and 1,350 automatic rain gauge, or ARG, stations, as part of a plan to move into numerical weather prediction, which is globally used to give precise weather forecasts, as opposed to statistical techniques still being used in India for monsoon forecasts.