Why blame MeT officials for bad weather when Karnataka is a victim to Chennai’s radar politics

Met dept sources say the state has been deprived of highly accurate doppler radars due to politics at the Chennai-based Southern Regional Indian Meteorological Department

Bengaluru: Could the recent showers that lashed the city been predicted with better accuracy? IMD officials think so.

According to sources in the IMD, accurate weather forecasting has become a victim of politics, with the state being deprived of two doppler radars due to the internal machinations at the Southern Regional Indian Meteorological Department (SRIMD) in Chennai.

This has ensured that Karnataka remains backward in weather monitoring.

Highly placed sources, on condition of anonymity, said that a doppler radar, whose predicts are extremely accurate, was sanctioned to Mangaluru 12 years ago. But it was shifted to Tamil Nadu for reasons unknown.

"Mangaluru was the perfect choice, for the radar would have covered an aerial distance of 600 kms, even up to Chennai. It was finalised way back in 1996. But the officers from Tamil Nadu ensured that the radar was shifted to Karaikal near Nagapattinam," said a source.

This dealt a severe blow to weather prediction in the state. “These radars are so accurate that it will not just identify clouds but also the wind direction and speed,” the source said.

The source pointed out that even sincere officers, who batted for Karnataka, were shunted out. “An officer who worked in the department and ensured that the state got a radar was transferred to Pune way back in 1990s,” the source added.

MeT officials said that another radar was sanctioned to Bijapur in early 2000 but it was also shifted to Tamil Nadu.

“The former director Dr AL Koppar wrote many letters requesting to allocate a radar. His pleas fell on deaf ears,” said the source.

Interestingly, barring Karnataka, almost all the southern states – Andrha Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharastra and even Goa – have the most advanced radars. Maharashtra has weather monitoring radars in Pune and Mumbai, Tamil Nadu at Nagapattinam and another near Chennai, Goa has one at Panaji and Kerala has a radar at Thiruvananthapuram.

Despite the fact that the state desperately needs one – considering the Cauvery water row – the state has been given a raw deal. As a result of this, the state has been unable to plan its water conservation and plan for the possible drought and disasters.

Tamil Nadu has been demanding for Cauvery water claiming that the people in the upstream have been deprived of water. But now it appears that the neighbouring state is equally responsible for this situation as it deprived two doppler radars sanctioned to Karnataka in the 1990s. The two radars were then shifted to Tamil Nadu. Yet, after every rainy season, Tamil Nadu fights for Cauvery water with Karntaka.

With Tamil Nadu depriving Karnataka of two doppler radars – Mangaluru and Bijapur – the state has been unable to plan its water conservation and plan for possible drought and disasters.

"At least if Bijapur had got a radar, it would have helped to study and monitor the weather of entire North Karnataka," said sources.

And even politicians seem to have no interest in securing a radar for the state.

MeT officials now want the SRIMD be shifted to Bengaluru from Chennai as the city is centrally situated to all the southern states and weather monitoring could be accurate.

Why we need radars

The doppler radar, which cost nearly Rs 25 crore, are helpful in more than one ways. According to MeT officials, the radar identifies not just the presence of cloud, but also wind pattern, direction among other things.

"These radars will help us predict the weather by about 90 per. But without such equipment, weather prediction would be just 40 per cent, and that too by gathering data,” source said.

"In the last couple of days, there have been showers in Chamrajnagar and other places. Right now, the MeT department is able to forecast the region might receive rainfall for the next few days. But if there were radars, we would have been more accurate,” said sources.

Although the state has monitoring stations across the state, very few are functioning accurately thanks to inaccurate data collections at the local level. The short-staffed department is heavily dependent on trained weather data collectors, who are either private individuals or government employees, who are not regular with their data crucial for accurate weather monitoring.

These data gatherers are paid Rs 35 per day by the IMD to gather data every morning and evening and transmit in codes. “But irregular payment by the SRIMD has discouraged them from providing the data,” pointed out the sources.

So, think twice before blaming the MeT department for inaccurate predictions. 

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