IMDs Doppler radars run into rough weather

Written by Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: May 7 2013, 09:11am hrs
Def min stalls installation of China-made radars over security concerns

Three state-of-the-art Doppler meteorological radars bought from US-based Weather Detection Systems, which has a manufacturing unit in China, are lying unused due to security concerns raised by the defence ministry.

The Indian Meteorological Department bought 12 Doppler radars in 2010, costing R12 crore each. The defence ministry objected to installing three of these China-made radars at coastal locations.

A senior official with the ministry of earth sciences told FE that the three radars were to be installed in Goa, Karaikal (Puducherry) and Paradip (Orissa). The defence

ministry informed us that a security audit will have to be carried out by independent agencies suggested by them at the respective sites.

Last month, the defence ministry advised the IMD not to proceed with the installation of weather radars at coastal areas and inside any defence location, considering the security implications arising out of the radar procured from China through a global tendering process.

At present, nine Doppler radars are installed at locations such as Lucknow, Patna, Visakhapatnam, Bhopal and Kolkata. The Doppler radar can monitor weather around a 400-km radius using wind direction.

We are in constant touch with the defence ministry officials and hope to resolve the issue shortly, ministry of earth sciences secretary Shailesh Nayak said.

The defence ministrys concerns come at a time when telecom companies that source a large chunk of their equipment from China are facing a similar scrutiny.

Doppler radars have been used by many countries for weather forecast, Nayak said.

Sources said the key issues concerning the radar revolve around an in-built computer that studies frequency changes to show the direction and speed of winds blowing around raindrops, insects and other objects that are reflected in the radio waves. However, not all are convinced. Given that radars are already in operation in many other locations, the security concern issue does not hold good, an IMD scientist said on condition of anonymity.

At present, IMD uses satellite pictures and statistical models to make seasonal climate forecasts. This has often proved to be unreliable in predicting rainfall patterns.

Met department scientists said once the radar system is fully operational, the equipment would locate clouds, forecast their height, direction, speed and wind activity inside.