A woman in Kerala crosses a road holding an umbrella against a heavy downpour and wind. Photo: PTI
New Delhi: The Kerala government has issued an order authorising the release of Rs 95 lakh to three private forecasters – Skymet Private Ltd, Earth Networks and IBM Weather Company – to improve ‘extreme weather alert service in the state’, reported The Hindu. The services provided by these companies will be part of a one-year pilot project.
This is the first time that a state government is looking beyond the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) – which is the state agency tasked with providing weather alerts and forecasts.
Earlier the Kerala government had said that it was dissatisfied with the kind of services provided by the IMD. The IMD had promised that it would set up 15 new Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) before the onset of the monsoon. That, however, did not happen.
“With such an unreliable network the State will not be able to localise alerts. None of the major requirements of the State have been met and this impedes disaster management capabilities of the State,” a letter from the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) reads according to The Hindu.
An IMD official told the Hindu that there were certain disagreements with the Kerala government over the locations of the AWS. “They wanted us to install them in certain places and we couldn’t do that. Moreover there are three Doppler Weather Radars and already a strong forecast mechanism in the State,” the official said.
After Cyclone Ockhi led to the loss of lives of several fisherfolks in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the IMD had committed to installing 100 AWS in Kerala. But these could not be installed in the manner in which the Kerala government wanted.
Now the one year pilot project will test the services provided by the private weather companies. Skymet has designed a mobile application called ‘Kerala rain’ which provides a 15-day-ahead forecast and real-time information from 100 weather stations in the state.