People rescued  from the flood affected areaat Agaram in Thoothukudi district
People rescued from the flood affected areaat Agaram in Thoothukudi district

Boost domestic radar capability to fight climate change

Given the geography and demography, India must invest in improving Doppler weather radars (DWR) footprints across the country.

The northeast monsoon is Tamil Nadu’s lifeline, but it has left the state battered this year. In some of its southern districts, the precipitation just went off the charts as 2023 came to a close. Tirunelveli district logged a 504 per cent excess precipitation in December alone, followed by Thoothukudi with a 454 per cent variation.

Such was the mayhem of weather that some pockets recorded the entire season’s rainfall in 24 hours. The extreme rainfall, a 100-year record for the state, has been one on a long list that extreme climate events that India encountered last year, which witnessed devastation in the Northeast, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh too. The country is just coming to terms with the mind-boggling cost of such extreme events.

A Reserve Bank paper last year estimated that the country lost a staggering USD 69 billion due to climate-related events in 2019. As Tamil Nadu pegs its flood losses at a staggering Rs 21,692 crore, there is unanimity that India must bring more focus and resources to precise, localised weather forecasting.

Given the geography and demography, India must invest in improving Doppler weather radars (DWR) footprints across the country. DWR systems enable a substantially robust tracking of extreme weather events in specific geographies in real-time. It helps reduce the loss of lives and supports faster rescues.

That is why the US— which encounters about 1,200 tornadoes every year and has lost assets running into billions of dollars—has a network of about 148 DWRs. Currently, India has a network of 39 DWRs, which is an improvement from 15 systems across the country 10 years back. The Centre targets to take the number past 60 by 2025.

However, the country primarily depends on procuring DWR systems from the US and European countries, besides having sourced from China in the past. To scale up the DWR footprint India has to boost domestic manufacturing, which requires substantial private investment. Only a handful of companies at present assemble the imported systems and need the handholding of the meteorological department and other space science institutions for technology.

Now the Union earth sciences minister, Kiren Rijiju, has asserted that the country will take a leading role in climate studies and forecasting. To achieve this, the government has to facilitate a proper manufacturing ecosystem that can compete with the international market.

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The New Indian Express
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