Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Regional tsunami warning centre, Hyderabad: Are tsunami alerts for privileged few?

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Are earthquake and tsunami warnings for the
privileged exclusive few in the country? This question crops up after
the city-based Indian Ocean regional tsunami warning centre attached
to the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services has
arbitrarily withdrawn earthquake and tsunami warning alerts through
sms for the general public.

Earlier, the general public were entitled to receive alerts about
impending tsunami and earthquakes on their mobile phones. There was a
provision for subscription for the sms alerts. All one had to do was
to leave behind one's mobile phone number with the Incois website and
whenever there's a tsunami alert it was automatically informed to him
through sms.

The alert service has now been denied to the general public and only
those in the government agencies and privileged few are entitled to
receive tsunami/earthquake warnings. Ironically, the change came after
the tsunami warning centre was upgraded to "regional status" making it
one of the three such centres in the Indian Ocean to issue alerts to
over two dozen countries in the region.

Incois sources point out the tsunami early warning centre has upgraded
the facility and in the process warning are issued only to a select
number of people/organisations. Then there was the issue of
restriction on the number of smses per day fixed by the Telecom
Regulatory Authority. Though Incois has succeeded in convincing Trai
and seeking exemption from the sms limit, it has not yet opened up the
alert system to the common man.

Early warning in case of natural calamities gain significance as it
protects human and animal life, and minimises the loss to property.
The India Meteorological Department is planning to introduce early
warning system of earthquakes too, and in the absence of free
dissemination of the warning by leading centres like Incois, the IMD
project is likely to serve little purpose.

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