With only 1,150 manually operated rain gauges spread across a state that has 5,600 panchayats, measuring rain in Karnataka was always a gamble. But this scenario will now change: Varsha-gd, an indigenously designed telemetric rain guage, is to be installed in 27 district headquarters. The government will install the device in 1000 panchayat s in the first phase.
The state's Drought Monitoring Cell (dmc) embarked on this project along with Spatika, a Bangalore-based it company, and non-governmental organisation Samooha, in 2003. "We felt the need for a technology to measure variability every 40 square kilometres. The device has to record the rainfall, store information, help in analysis and send it to the decision support system and all this has to be done in real time. Telemetric rain gauges were not available, so we had to come up with a low cost solution," says V S Prakash, director, Drought Monitoring Cell (dmc). So was created Varsha- gd, which received certification from the Indian Meteorological Department in 2004.
Costing Rs 16,000, the device was released in March this year. It consists of a sensor unit and an electronic unit. The former has a tipping bucket that collects water and tips down at every 0.5 mm of rainfall. The latter senses these tippings and the rainfall is recorded. This data is transferred to the gsm tower of the cellphone operator, and broadcast as sms. Recieved by remote server, it is decoded and stored in a database. The server can analyse the data and produce maps and reports. The information can be accessed by farmers, the Reserve Bank of India, pesticide and fertiliser manufacturers and dealers. Farmers armed with this data can plan investments and marketing strategies. "It is a step towards developing climate managers at the village level," says Prakash. The Agriculture Insurance Company has also shown interest in the device for its weather based insurance schemes. Rainfall measurement is crucial information for growers of shower dependant crops like coffee.