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The Rediff Special/George Iype
Tsunami warning system by September 2007
December 22, 2005
A number of Indian organisations are working on a warning system that officials say will predict a tsunami within 10 minutes.
The target is to put the system in place within the next two years.
The initial project cost is estimated to be around $30 million.
Hyderabad is where it is under construction, on the campus of the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services.
Experts say India is an ideal destination for setting up a tsunami warning system.
"India is located at the centre of the Indian Ocean. Therefore, the country is ideally suited to host the (tsunami warning) centre and play a significant role for all countries in the Asian region," points out Professor Tad Murthy, an internationally acknowledged tsunami expert.
To set up a system that will cover the entire region is a gigantic task. And it would also cost more than $200 million.
"The government has decided we would not like to be a part of the consortium of other countries to set up a tsunami early warning system in the Indian Ocean," an official at the Department of Science and Technology told rediff.com
Instead, India has embarked on an ambitious project to develop its own warning system.
"We hope we will have our complete tsunami warning system in place within next two to two-and-a-half years," says Science and Technology Secretary Dr V S Ramamurthy.
The Department of Ocean Development, the Department of Space and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research are involved in the project along with the DST.
As of now, India has 20 sensor-equipped, deep-sea buoys in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea to detect abnormal ocean behaviour.
However, officials say, they are not equipped with the pressure sensors needed for advance warning of a tsunami.
A tsunami warning system consists of two equally important components: A network of sensors to detect the gigantic waves and a communication infrastructure to issue timely alarms.
After an under-sea earthquake, it takes at least three hours for giant tsunami waves to build up. A warning system could have helped evacuate people living within the three-hour travel time from the epicentre of the earthquake that unleashed the giant tsunami waves on December 26 last year.
The world's only tsunami warning system is located near Honolulu, Hawaii. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre, which was set up by the United States, warns countries in the Pacific Basin. Many countries in the Pacific have evacuation procedures and sub-tsunami warning systems connected with the PTWC.
Department of Science and Technology officials say India will have a control centre based in Hyderabad that will be connected to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre. It will have an integrated technological solution comprising sensors, communications system, networking and high-intensity tidal warning systems.
In the last few months, scientists and experts deputed by the ministry of science and technology have visited the PTWC to learn more about its technology and procedures.
The ministry has also drafted the broad guidelines for setting up an Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System, which will also warn of impending storms.
"The funds have been allocated. All key technical elements are to be in place by March," says an official closely connected with the project.
September 2007 is when the system is expected to be in place.
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