India much safer against tsunami threat: INCOIS director

Director of Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Tummala Srinivasa Kumar, in Hyderabad. Special Arrangement.  

India is much safer against tsunami threat than it was in 2004, thanks to the state-of-the-art tsunami early warning system established at Indian National Centre for Ocean Information System (INCOIS) here. However, the best of warning systems could fail, if communities are not prepared, if they do not understand the official and natural warning signs of a tsunami, and if they do not take appropriate and timely response, warns Tummala Srinivasa Kumar, the new INCOIS Director.

"We have made impressive progress in building tsunami early warning capability. From absolutely no warning capability or for that matter any public knowledge of tsunamis in the Indian Ocean, we have reached a stage where we can detect large under sea earthquakes in real-time and provide a tsunami warning in 10 – 20 minutes after the earthquake occurrence. In fact, for Indian Ocean earthquakes where the network of seismometers is reasonably good, quakes can now be detected in less than five minutes and a tsunami warning issued within 10 minutes if the quake occurs elsewhere in the globe”, says the 48-year-old.

Dr. Kumar is among the first batch of scientists to join INCOIS when it started operating from National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) and was project manager of the Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre when it was established in 2007 after the 2004 Tsunami which caused havoc in Indian Ocean rim countries.

After a stint as head of Intergovernmental Coordination Group for Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (ICG/IOTWMS) secretariat of Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO stationed at Perth, Australia, he has returned to take over as director.

He says the focus in recent times has been on enhancing community awareness and response through several capacity building activities, biennial Indian Ocean wide tsunami drills and piloting of the UNESCO-IOC Tsunami Ready initiative to provide a structured framework to build and measure capacities of coastal communities to respond effectively to tsunamis, through 11 important indicators.

Two villages -Venkatraipur in Ganjam district and Noliasahi in Jagatsingpur district in Odisha are now ‘Tsunami Ready’. “This has to be replicated in other vulnerable coastal communities as it also enhances ability to respond to cyclones and storm surges too,” says Dr. Kumar.

Tsunami early warning system in INCOIS has been continuously upgrading “observation network, forecast models, communication and computational systems”. In fact, “ we were among the first few centres to introduce quantitative tsunami forecasts. IOC-UNESCO accredited Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre as Tsunami Service Provider (TSP) for 28 Indian Ocean rim countries, along with Indonesia and Australia in 2011, for issuing regional warnings", he points out.

“Tsunami warning is a race against time and for near-source regions like Andaman & Nicobar Islands, we have less than 10 minutes to issue warnings. To overcome such challenges we are establishing a network of 35 stations of which 31 GPS stations are ready. These help us estimate the tectonic plate’s movements in real-time and measure the vertical displacements under the sea directly," explains Dr Kumar.

INCOIS other major work has been on identifying the Potential Fishing Zones (PFZ) for the fishermen community. "We are able to give species' specific information for Yellowfin Tuna and work is on developing advisories for species like Hilsa. Another improvement is overcoming the cloud cover through usage of geostationary satellites and numerical modelling. We have nearly 7 lakh fishermen’s mobile numbers to send advisories on whether it is safe to navigate into the sea," he says.

The institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences has also partnered with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Airports Authority of India (AAI) to develop a satellite based message broadcasting services through the indigenous navigational satellite communication system 'NAVIC'. "Seafarers, anywhere in the northern Indian Ocean, have access to these fisheries and safety information on their mobile phones," he adds.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 4:43:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/india-much-safer-against-tsunami-threat-incois-director/article32947534.ece

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