The New Indian Express , 21 July 2006

India progressing well with tsunami warning system: expert

KOCHI: India has progressed extremely well, and probably better than any of the 37 countries on the Indian ocean rim in establishing a tsunami warning system, an internationally acclaimed tsunami expert said on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a function here, Dr Tad S Murty of the University of Ottawa, Canada, said the only country that could be compared to India in this matter was Australia, which has also achieved the same level of progress.

On the major steps taken by India, he said an “interim warning centre” would be fully operational by September 2007 at the Hyderabad-based Indian National Centre for Ocean Information System (INCOIS) under the Department of Ocean Development.

“It does not mean that they cannot warn now, but it will be 100 per cent operational by no later than September 2007,” the oceanographer said. To a question on the location of the centre, he said, “In these days of electronics, it does not matter where a warning centre is. Physical location is immaterial as the centre covers both Arabian Sea as well as the Bay of Bengal.”

Scientists do not give a warning, it is given by a designated person in the government, he said. “Scientists may have ideas but they do not have the authority to give a tsunami warning. They can only give advice.”

Murty said scientists could predict a tsunami only after an earthquake. “Earthquake prediction has not progressed to a stage where we can say with certainty when the next quake will happen and where,” he said, and expressed optimism that it may be possible some day.

Replying to a query whether the coastal belts of Mumbai and Gujarat are vulnerable to tsunamis, he said Mumbai would not be affected very significantly since it has some kind of natural protection.

“Occurrence of tsunami depends on where the earthquake happens. If the quake happens in Mekran coast, the tsunami will largely hit Gujarat and if it is in Sumatra the most affected places will be Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal,” he said.

Asked whether the Indian Ocean was becoming prone to tsunamis, Murty said he didn’t think so. “My feeling is there were tsunamis before also. It is really the attention that they are getting. I do not think natural hazards are increasing. It is not the number or intensity that increasing, but what is increasing is our vulnerability to it”.

Mangroves, up to some extent, could be helpful in protecting from the sea waves, he said. If they are planted properly, we could get 50 to 60 per cent protection from the waves.

Pointing out that sea walls can protect waves only in limited areas, he said, “I do not recommend putting sea wall all along the coast as they will produce lot of other problems.”