Sunday, March 29, 2015

Revisiting the tsunami of Dec 2004; a Jan 3, 2005 post on

Jan 3, 2005
Tsunami alarm: desi model or global club?

Ashok B Sharma analyses how technology can deal with a tsunami-like crisis

Posted online: Monday, January 03, 2005 at 0000 hours IST

Is technology the ultimate solution? Could a monitoring and warning system have prevented the large-scale destruction that one witnessed last week? Why didn’t India install a warning system so far? These are among the questions being asked, both within and outside the scientific community, post-Tsunami. Even as answers are few and far between, Tsunami has come as a wake-up call for the government. While relevance of technology in predicting Tsunami is one of the key issues being debated right now, a way forward is clearly being chalked out.
For one, the Union ministry of science and technology is planning to hold a brainstorming session sometime this month with National Geophysical Research Institute, National Institute of Oceanography and Department of Ocean Development for devising an appropriate Tsunami warning system. Also, steps are being chalked out to strengthen the Indian station in Antarctica, Maitri, to monitor seismicity in and around Antarctica and Indian Ocean.
Commitment has come from the minister for science and technology and ocean development Kapil Sibal already. He is on record saying that proper logistics for monitoring and warning will be put in place, even though Tsunami is a rare occurrence.
The initiatives that the establishment wants to roll out include undertaking deep ocean assessment and reporting system, coastal barometry, and increasing the number of data buoys in the surrounding seas from existing 20 to 30. The buoys are expected to monitor 6 km below the ocean surface, by connecting the aquatic tidal gauges to a satellite. The project cost: a mere Rs 125 crore!
Meanwhile, there’s a difference in view as far as joining the Tsunami warning system in the Pacific is concerned.
For instance, the US Geological Society (USGS) has alleged that the Tsunami-hit countries has not put in place any warning system for mitigating the disaster. USGC spokesperson Carolyn Bell is reported to have said: “We support the Tsunami warning system in the Pacific only. Of course this earthquake was not in the Pacific Ocean.” According to her, creating a Tsunami warning centre in the Indian Ocean will be a challenge. “This crosses so many countries and so many boundaries in that part of the world and the warning system would have to be so geographically diverse. We’re talking about educating people to what the warning means, what you have to do,” she says.
India thinks differently. Mr Sibal says that India will not be a member of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre, a body set up exclusively for the Pacific Rim countries. “Being a member of this body will not help us as the mandate of the body is for the specific region. Our seismic zone is Indo-Australian plate as distinct from the Pacific plate. We should therefore ask for relevant data from them and construct our own model for monitoring and forecast,” he says. The minister also said that India will network with Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar in future for exchange of relevant data. Whatever the arrangement, experts argue that a suitable monitoring system could have mitigated some of the colossal damages. Though earthquakes and volcanic eruptions cannot be predicted on a short-term basis, the Tsunami effect, which takes longer time to reach distant places, can be predicted at ease, they say.
But, the Indian government insists that the country did not opt for such a system as Tsunami has not been a frequent occurrence in the region. According to Mr Sibal, the first Tsunami killed the forces of Greek invader Alexander the Great, and the second Tsunami occurred in 1883. Secretary in the department of ocean development Harsh K Gupta agrees that Tsunami is rare.
Noted geologist, Dr George Pararas-Carayannis, counters: "Destructive Tsunamis are not uncommon in the Bay of Bengal or along the Sunda Trench. On June 26, 1941, a devastating earthquake in the Andaman Sea, with a Richter magnitude greater than 8.0 generated a major Tsunami that killed more than 5,000 people on the east coast of India. However, at that time, the media incorrectly attributed the deaths and damages to storm surges rather than to a Tsunami generated by an earthquake. Many more deaths must have occurred but were not reported."
He adds that the region where the earthquake took place marks the boundary where great tectonic plates of India and Australia collide with the Sunda and the Eurasian plates. It is the same place where large catastrophic earthquakes and volcanic explosions and Tsunamis have occurred for millions of years.
Coming to the basics, the Tsunami of December 26 is the fourth largest trembler in the world since 1900 and Asia's worst earthquake since 1970. The Tsunami effect touched even the east coast of Africa on the same day. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Tsunami effect took about two hours to reach Port Blair in Andaman & Nicobar Islands and
three-and-half hours to reach the Chennai coast.
For those who joined in late, Tsunami is a Japanese word, pronounced as "tsoo-nah'-mee". `Tsu' means harbour and `nami' means wave. The phenomena, Tsunami, is a series of large waves of extremely long wavelength or activity near the coast or in the ocean.
US-based experts predict another tsunami
Posted online : Friday, December 31, 2004 at 0000 hours IST

NEW DELHI, DEC 30: The government has been on the horns of a dilemma after some foreign experts predicted another tsunami.
The home ministry has issued an alert to five affected states and Union territories.

It has also issued a warning to Lakshdweep, so far untouched. Following the alert notice, the affected states are evacuating people from the coast.
But Union minister for science and technology and ocean development Kapil Sibal has denounced these predictions as ‘hogwash.’
Mr Sibal told mediapersons, “An agency manned by four persons called Tera Research based in Oregon, Portland, USA sent a forecast of a fresh tsunami to our meteorological department at 6.00 am.” This was forwarded by his ministry to the home ministry without comment.
Questioned why his ministry did this, Mr Sibal said, “Our duty was to pass on the information and we did that.”
He said that he had asked the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre to confirm the forecast. Their answer: “There is no such concern”. ISRO has also been asked to stay in touch with the centre.
AK Rastogi of the natural disaster management division under the home ministry quoted a forecast of a fresh tidal wave from another agency, the Australian Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre. He said that his surfing of the net had convinced him that “there is a case for concern”.
The death toll in the country has risen to 7,368.
IARI to study salinity ofsoil, water in tsunami-hit states
IARI centenary celebrations begins today
New Delhi, Dec 31
Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) has decided to send a team of experts to study soil and water salinity problems in the coastal states affected by the tsumani tidal wave.
"We need to find out the salinity problem and identify appropriate saline resistant seeds for sowing. Our team will also study salinity problems in potable water and suggest remedies," said IARI director Dr S Nagarajan.
Briefing mediapersons in the capital on Wednesday, Dr Nagarajan said there is a need for research on global climate change and effective management of natural resources. He stressed the need for organic farming, efficient use of energy and water and encouragement of zero-tillage of soil.
He said: "It has been field-tested that organic farming of rice and sugarcane produces the same yield or more than that done through chemical agriculture."
He that the prime concern before the country is not that of food security, but of ensuring nutritional security and management of natural disasters. He said that deaths due to natural calamity exceed those due to starvation.
"The IARI will be celebrating a year-long centenary celebration in 2005. The new focus of IARI will be on nutritional security, organic farming and management of natural disasters. The centenary celebrations will be formally launched on January 1, 2005," he said.
Dr Nagarajan also stressed on crop diversification in lieu of mono-cropping. He said that disciplines like farm laws, patents and intellectual property rights, environmental issues will be incorporated in the new curriculum of IARI. In the coming days, issues like sanitary and phytosanitary measures and other non-tariff bariers are likely to dominate global trade and hence the country needs to gear up to meet this challenge, he said.

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