March 25, 2017 2:29:19 am
Real-time weather updates via SMS — that’s what farmers in the state will get from July this year. This is part of MAHAVEDH (Maharashtra Automatic Weather Station) — a state government project for which private weather forecaster Skymet won the bid recently — aimed at dissemination of information among a large network of farmers.
As many as 2,065 locations have been identified across the state where Automatic Weather Stations (AWSs), which will record temperature, humidity, wind speed, etc in real time, will be installed. While the AWSs will be set up on government land, the equipment will be operated under a PPP (public-private-partnership) arrangement, in the form of Build-Own and Operate (BOO), by Skymet.
Confirming the development, Skymet CEO Jatin Singh told The Indian Express, “This is a first-of-its-kind intelligent system for weather forecasting, in which we are partnering with the state government.”
The total estimated cost for the first phase of installation is Rs 25 crore. At present, surveys are being carried out at various locations in the state, after which the installation process will commence. The government has been planning to introduce such a system for over five years, and the initial cost was estimated to be nearly Rs 100 crore. This also acted as a deterrent, prompting the government to share the responsibility with private players through a PPP arrangement.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD), on the other hand, already has 675 AWSs across the country. Of these, about 25-30 per cent are not yet fully operational. So far, they have managed to reach out to 2 million farmers via SMS and the aim is to have as many as 90 million farmers on board by 2019.
“Installing AWS was part of the steps towards digitisation taken five years ago. But we are yet to operationalise all the AWS to their fullest capacity,” said a senior IMD official from its Pune office.
Ramchandra Sable, former head of Agrimet division at IMD, welcomed the commencement of project MAHAVEDH. According to him, cases of crop losses can be better addressed when weather data at such local levels help analyse crop damage.
“On several occasions, it is difficult to ascertain the exact cause of crop damage in case of weather vagaries. Through such a network, it would be possible to have better information on weather, which will help analyse the situation better,” said Sable. However, he pointed out that the biggest challenge for the agency was acquiring accurate data and maintaining weather stations. “Given the huge number of AWS that will be installed, there must be some accountability for the weather data that will be generated,” said Sable.
Along with day-to-day weather updates, the agency also plans to issue seasonal forecasts in the coming months, said the officials.
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