PM, NSC Invoked On Aqua Security

New Delhi, June 29: | Updated: Jun 30 2002, 05:30am hrs
Nasas latest foray into mapping global precipitation, evaporation, and the cycling of water has activated the water resources ministry here. The dedicated satellite Aqua, a joint US, Japanese and Brazilian effort was launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on May 4. The satellite has beamed its first geophysical products on June 24 (see accompanying reproductions).

A concerned ministry has invoked Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the National Security Council (NSC), and has argued that through Aqua, water cycle of the entire South Asian system including ground water, surface water, atmospheric water, Himalayan ice caps and glaciers would get monitored, (and) possession of this information could lead to a variety of manipulative usesnot always in our interest.

In a letter, the ministry has called for serious strategic thought over the potential crisis in the sharing of fresh water resources all over the world, especially in our region. It has argued that data acquired from Aqua can help the US in the possible commercialisation of the resources, at a time fears are being expressed on water riots and water wars in a future of exploding population.

The ministry wants the PM/NSC to coordinate with the Indian Space Research Organisation and the ministry of environment to work out an immediate response, including at the earliest, a dedicated satellite on water cycle for hydrological mapping, providing information about the glaciers which feed Indian rivers, besides acquifers and all ground and surface water bodies of South Asia.

In retrospect, control of our water resources was one of the primary calculations in Chinas control of Tibet, the ministry says, calling for a South Asian Regional Cooperation treaty on sharing of water resources, targeting bilateral agreements in this direction, and fine-tuning water laws and water negotiation capabilities based on socio-economic data.

Earlier this week, alongside the latest pictures, NASA posted comments (www.aqua.nasa.gov) that Aqua aims to provide sound science to policy and economic decision makers so as to better life on the earth. It said the satellite will become fully operational, on schedule, in September.

In a comment, minister of state Bijoya Chakravarty told FE that she believes that the top NSC leadership ascribes a high priority to this urgent national need.