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India’s capability to transmit early warnings of a possible tsunami is all set to be further bolstered with a major facility being established in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Here, a network of 35 motion accelerometers and GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) receivers is being set up which will vastly improve the tsunami-warning services under the Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre (ITEWC).
The new network in Andaman is expected to help assess the rupture, area and direction of an earthquake, enabling a quick estimation of a potential tsunami.
In 2004, a deadliest earthquake of 9.3 magnitude occurred in Indian Ocean which had an equivalent energy of 3000 atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima. It was the first time and people were not prepared neither was the government, for such a huge disaster.
The earthquake caused the tsunami which caught the world unaware. India lost 1100 people out of 2 lakh people killed in around 14 countries affected by tsunami. Most affected regions in India were Andaman, Andhra Pradesh, Pondicherry and Kerala. At that time there was no tsunami warning system in place in India to detect a tsunami in Indian Ocean. Though similar systems existed in other parts of world like pacific and Atlantic, their system was not capable of giving any early warning to Indian Ocean region.
Tsunami early warning system
In 2004, GoI had approved a programme in consultation with organisations like ISRO, DSIR, CSIR, DST and established within two years a state of art tsunami warning system at Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services-INCOIS, Hyderabad.
By October 2007, 24*7 early warning system is in place which is capable of giving any tsunami warning within 10 minutes of occurring of earthquake anywhere in the Indian Ocean. The objective is to detect, locate and determine the magnitude of tsunami-genic earthquake in the IOR.
ITEWC has a network of seven tsunami buoy systems equipped with bottom-pressure recorders that transmit real-time data through satellite to INCOIS 24×7. The buoys are strategically placed at hypothetical tsunami sources of Andaman-Sumatra and Makran subduction zones (regions of the Earth’s crust where tectonic plates meet).
INCOIS has also established a real-time network of 31 tide-gauge stations along the Indian coast, and receives real-time data from 300 international tide gauge stations across the world. The tide gauges supplement the work of the tsunami buoys.
In the new system developed, the advisory warning of 10 minutes is given to escape. The time tsunami takes to reach mainland India is about 2 hours. So there is 1 hour 50 minutes to evacuate the coastal region. Advisories are simultaneously sent to various stakeholders through multiple modes, such as email, fax, phone, GTS, SMS and INCOIS website updates.
In most of the coastal region, there are lot of IEC programmes also, but they need to know geographical knowledge to save life and know they live in vulnerable area. For this purpose, the government is developing 3D GIS mapping in vulnerable coastal areas so that they know at what depth they are at water level and what level they have to go and how many people are there in each building. Right now it is in some parts of coastal areas and will be extended to other vulnerable areas of Indian coast soon.
Tsunami warning system is a system of system. It requires various branches of technology to develop the system and make it operational. Data from satellites, piezometer, ocean observation system, ships and good communication medium are used. All these things are put together and archived at one place and when tsunami occurs and within 10 minutes, information is passed on about areas to be affected.
Post disaster management
There is a Standard Operating Procedure to deal with tsunami which been established by tsunami warning centre at Hyderabad.
This information is passed to NDMA, NDRF and MHA within 10 minutes of earthquake occurrence so there is 1 hour 50 minutes time to implement the contingency plan in coastal regions.
In coastal states, administrators have been trained and people have been also administered to provide help during disasters. There is also conduction of awareness programme biennially to make people knowledgeable about what to do during tsunami.
In 2004 during tsunami, all communications had failed except radio which became the medium of communication between all affected areas. In event of failure of communication on land, there is use of satellite communication. This will transmit the data directly to the ground station from where the tsunami warning is generated from Hyderabad.
In any disaster, most affected population are women and children. A government data has shown that children have died three times higher than others. Thus, the plan of action needs to focus on women and children and elderly. NDMA and National Disaster Response Force have the infrastructure to take care of vulnerable people such as women, children, and elderly.
Additionally, during disaster management, drinking water, food and help facility is critical. This is handled by NDMA and it has requisite infrastructure and necessary capability to deal with any kind of disasters. During Vardha cyclone, people staying nearby, Navy, Coast Guard and other organisations geared up to mobilise their infrastructure to provide necessary requirement. That kind of inter-ministerial and inter-related cooperation exists to deal with any kind of disaster like this.
Past to present
Many disasters have occurred in states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha in form of floods and cyclones.
Earlier, there was no predictive capability for tsunami or cyclone. Now there is a 12 km high resolution models to give forecasts 5 days in advance. This was visible in Hudhud and Vardha cyclones.
Earlier, the area covered was huge- upto 250 kms where it could occur. Now it is 25 kms range. So predictive capability of cyclone has strongly improved that has resulted in less of loss of life and necessary contingency precautions.
National Disaster Management Guidelines in 2010 were released which also focused on advanced systems like topography, GIS database, remote sensing data and national database for emergency management.
There is need for good international cooperation as oceans don’t have boundaries. What happens in Indonesia can affect India too. Among regional cooperation under the framework of UNESCO or UN, there is great deal of sharing of information data from one country to another country is required. India has extended its tsunami early warning system to Vietnam, Malaysia and Philippines as a part of soft-diplomacy along with countries belonging to IOR. A disaster may occur in Indonesia but information can be available to India and precautions can be taken. Thus, Observations set up at different parts of Indian Ocean will be required to give exact information.
Connecting the dots:
In an event of tsunami, India is well placed to manage the effects of it. Do you agree? Comment.