Earth sciences ministry made progress but has been ‘sluggish’ on a few counts: Parliamentary report 

Ministry has had a few misses in establishing District Agro-meteorological Field Units, which are responsible for preparing and disseminating agro-met advisories

By Rohini Krishnamurthy
Published: Friday 10 February 2023
The ministry has been slow in installing and commissioning Doppler Weather Radars (DWR), including in the North East Region, the committee wrote. Photo:

Despite making satisfactory strides in providing weather-based agro-advisory services in 2021-2022, the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has had a few misses, the parliamentary standing committee report stated.

The ministry has been “sluggish” in establishing District Agro-meteorological Field Units (DAMU), which are responsible for preparing and disseminating district and sub-district-level agro-met advisories.

In 2021-22, three DAMUs were established at Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir, Almora and Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand. The target was 20 DAMUs.

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So far, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has established a total of 199 DAMUs in the country. “The pace of growth of the DAMU network was affected due to limited funds available for this,” the report read.

In January 2023, Minister of State for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, Jitendra Singh, said the IMD will target setting up 660 DAMUs by 2025.

To help improve the quality of weather services for farmers, MoES has set a target of setting up 100 DAMUs in the premises of Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK) at the district level by 2026. 

The ministry has been slow in installing and commissioning Doppler Weather Radars (DWR), including in the North East Region, the committee wrote. Doppler weather radar can predict extreme weather events.

The ministry is prioritising installing DWR in the Himalayan states, which are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events.

So far, six DWRs have been installed at Mukteshwar and Surkanda Devi in Uttarakhand, Kufri in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, Leh and Aya Nagar in Delhi. 

DWRs will soon be set up at Lansdowne in Uttarakhand, Murari Devi and Jot in Himachal Pradesh and Banihal Top in Jammu and Kashmir, the report added.

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The entire country will be covered by Doppler Weather Radar Network by 2025 to predict extreme weather events accurately, Singh said at the 148th Foundation Day of IMD.

Progress in installing Automatic Weather Stations (AWS), Climate Reference stations and X-band radars, which study cloud development and light precipitation, has also been slow, according to the committee.

Currently, 727 Automatic Weather Stations exist, with 200 more completed installations on April 27, 2022. The ministry is procuring another 330 stations and setting up 400 stations across India.

“The committee recommends the ministry to revisit its performance in terms of realisation of physical targets set under the ACROSS scheme and strive hard to improve it,” the report highlighted.

ACROSS, which stands for Atmosphere and Climate Research-Modelling Observing Systems and Services, was approved in November 2018 by the Cabinet at an estimated cost of Rs 1,450 crore.

As one of the atmospheric science programmes of the MoES, ACROSS works on weather and climate services, including disseminating warnings for cyclones, storm surges, heat waves, thunderstorms and the like.

Polar studies

The parliamentary committee noted the delay in acquiring a polar research vessel (PRV), which was approved in 2010.

“It is painful to learn that despite having two stations in Antarctica and one in the Arctic of greater strategic significance and importance with specific reference to climate change, India does not have a PRV,” the report read.

The committee urged the ministry to get the necessary funds for the purpose. According to MoES, the revised estimated cost was $317 million. 

Further, the committee highlighted the need to replace or upgrade the Maitri Station in Antarctica, which was set up in 1988. It is home to Indian scientists working at the South Pole.

The Station has not only outlived its life as it was designed for an estimated life of 10 years. The committee hopes the proposed new Station — Maitri-II — will be completed on time.

With an estimated cost of nearly Rs 900 crore, acquiring the funds has been challenging. The ministry is preparing a note for in-principle approval of the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance.

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