Tsunami-warning buoys to be revamped

Tsunami-warning buoys to be revamped

New Delhi: The ministry of earth sciences and ocean development (MoES) plans to revamp a key component of India’s tsunami warning network.

As Mint had reported in December 2008, only two of a system of six floats installed in the Bay of Bengal as part of a tsunami-warning system were working.

Even these two are functioning at suboptimal levels as key parts—called tsunami buoys—have either been stolen or destroyed by fishermen. The warning system is built around buoys in the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.

India’s early warning system for tsunamis was installed at a cost of Rs120 crore in October 2007, nearly three years after tidal waves struck killing some 12,000 people and leaving thousands homeless. The system is configured to warn of a tsunami 20 minutes before the waves hit the mainland.

“Four out of the six buoys installed for this purpose (tsunami warning) do not seem to be working," said Shailesh Nayak, secretary, MoES. “So we are reworking some of those key components."

He said the Chennai-based National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) is replacing some of the damaged sensors in the buoys with cheaper ones and changing the design of some floats to prevent fishnets from getting entangled in them. “In the course of freeing their nets, they (fishermen) would destroy the sensors and sometimes steal them."

The six redesigned floats, as well as six new ones, are to be installed by May 2011.

S. Kathiroli, a former director of NIOT, said it is “pretty expensive" to replace the buoys, which are located 200 nautical miles (370km) off India’s coast. “It involves commissioning a ship, the requisite manpower and so on that could easily cost Rs5-10 lakh."

The buoys are also supposed to send sea surface temperature data to meteorological departments for use in monsoon prediction models.

“At least three-hourly sea surface temperatures are crucial for dynamical monsoon models (which use computerized simulation of the atmosphere to churn forecasts)," said an official at the India Meteorological Department. “Now, we get data only once a day."