If governments across the globe are looking at Afghanistan and the Middle East with renewed concern over the recent developments, earth scientists too are having a critical look at the region, especially towards the sea in the Gulf region.
The Indian Ocean is likely to be affected by tsunamis generated mainly by earthquakes not only from the known and explored ‘Andaman-Nicobar-Sumatra Island Arc’ in Bay of Bengal but also the ‘Makran Subduction Zone’ in the Northern Arabian Sea which is poorly understood.
“Hundreds of fatalities were confirmed to have occurred after the 1945 Tsunami in north west of Indian Ocean and there still are ‘open questions’ on whether the Makran subduction zone can generate such large tsunamis in the future,” said Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) director T. Srinivasa Kumar on Wednesday.
Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission-UNESCO has begun to implement a multi-national project aimed at better understanding Makran and to strengthen tsunami early warning through regional cooperation funded by UN ESCAP Trust Fund in the region, he said.
INCOIS hosting the Tsunami Warning Centre for 25 countries of the region has been drafted to strengthen the standard operating procedures for disseminating alerts through mainstream media of Iran, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Pakistan apart from India. Dr. Kumar, addressing the second day of the three-day workshop, said the ideal situation is the one in Japan where National Broadcaster NHK has a direct connection with the warning centre to relay real time information.
Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre (ITEWC) at INCOIS came into existence after the tsunami on December 26, 2004, which took 16,000 lives in the country alone, under the Ministry of Earth Sciences and it is part of the IOC framework. It can now give alerts within 10 minutes of any quake underwater through a network of buoys, 36 tide gauges along the coastline and 27 seismic stations, he said.
Incidentally, INCOIS has five buoys in Bay of Bengal to give real-time information about ocean currents and any sub-surface quakes whereas it has just two on Arabian Sea near Makran. “Ideally, we need to have one more as right now these two help us get timely alerts, but not enough for research. We are expecting Oman to fund another one since each buoy costs about ₹8 crore. It is quite a complicated process to maintain them since we had incidents of vandalism with parts of the buoys being cut off mid-sea,” said scientists B.Ajay Kumar and Ch.Patanjali Kumar.
Senior scientist T.M. Balakrishnan Nair gave an overview of INCOIS activities on fishing, ocean forecasting, multi-hazard mapping of coastline, etc. Scientists M.V.Sunanda and Sudheer Joseph also participated.