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Private weather stations gaining ground,Met department not worried

Following the 2005 Mumbai floods,the Maharashtra government approached a private company to set up 2,000 automatic weather stations across the state.

Following the 2005 Mumbai floods,the Maharashtra government approached a private company to set up 2,000 automatic weather stations across the state. It appointed weather forecast firm,Skymet,as its consulting partner,entering into a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership model aimed at giving long range forecasts,helping farmers even in remote villages to know weather patterns and increase crop productivity. Now,private weather stations seem to have found favour among farmers,who rely on forecasts by them rather than the ones issued by the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

The idea behind roping in private firms was to have tailor-made weather services which would benefit the energy and agricultural sectors. “The government will invest close to Rs 100 crore in the project to benefit both energy and agriculture sector post the extreme weather events that have been occurring in the state,” said a senior official.

With state governments welcoming private companies for weather forecasting,an otherwise government monopoly — mainly the IMD — these firms have slowly moved into fast gear. They are giving out weather information to a host of clients — power utilities,insurance companies,farmers and commodity traders.

“If we want to know the intensity of rainfall and if a flood-like situation will happen in a particular area,private companies are willing to give us the data,which,from our experience,has been accurate,” officials said.

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“If the government is approaching us,it means that out data is accurate. We have been also following up with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to try out flood alarm system. However,their officials are still considering it,’’ said Skymet’s founder and CEO Jatin Singh. The company,besides the Maharashtra government,provides services to television channels,energy and agricultural sectors.

Dr Sourav Pal,member of the Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulation (CMMACS),said the centre has high-end technology to give out accurate predictions for certain areas. It has been catering to the power sector and farmers and uses high-speed computing to issue annual monsoon forecasts.

Farmers get updates from private weather companies ahead of monsoon for the start of the sowing season. “I get all the data on my cellphone daily,” says Dhondiba Waghmode,a farmer.

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“Satellite images are difficult to read. Weather services make it easier,” said another farmer,Vishnupant Mhadik.

However,officials of Ministry of Earth Sciences defend IMD. “We are only trying to improve our forecasts and upgradeour facilities. We agree there are plenty of services,but the country’s official weather forecast is what is followed. We cannot be bothered by such weather forecasters,” said Dr Ajit Tyagi,presently in the MoES and former director-general of IMD.

Radhamadhav N,head (operations),National Collateral Management Services Ltd (NCMSL),said they have 1,800 automatic weather stations in 15 states and provide tailor-made services for their clients.

First published on: 26-06-2012 at 02:45 IST
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