The Kerala government Saturday hired four private weather forecasters for a year and said it would use weather services and warnings issued by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) only for “comparison” ahead of issuing alerts.
In a sanction order issued by the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority, weather services have been sought from Skymet, IBM Weather Company, Earth Networks and Windy. These firms have been granted permission to source appropriate weather prediction and monitoring tools on a pilot basis, initially for improving “extreme alerts” in Kerala.
A 10 per cent budget from the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) has been allotted towards procurement of services from these private agencies.
The Kerala government has frequently been critical of the IMD, blaming the latter for not issuing timely weather warnings. The state’s relation with the IMD reportedly soured during the 2018 Kerala floods, which were caused after the state received the heaviest rainfall recorded in a century. Hundreds of lives were lost in the floods and the state suffered major economic losses.
The order says that the IMD had not fulfilled some of the Disaster Management Authority’s requests to strengthen the network of Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) in the state, as it had promised would be done before the 2020 monsoon season.
“The IMD had promised that 15 new AWS will be ready before this monsoon. Unfortunately, as on date, no new AWS has come up and the near-time data streaming is minimal to nil. Just about five AWS are providing live data to the state,” read the order.
Earlier this week, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had mentioned in one of his daily press addresses that the IMD has forecast excess rainfall in the state in the upcoming season, particularly starting August.
The Kerala government also came down heavily on the Met department, saying, “The IMD is still not issuing weather alerts at the taluka-level and continues to do so at the district-level. With such unreliable network of no near real time weather measurements, the state will not be able to localise its alerts.”
Senior IMD officials said that, being the nodal agency, it would continue providing weather services to all states.
Kerala also plans to consult weather experts in the state for issuing alerts and warnings based on information provided by the newly hired private agencies. “This will be done in comparison with the information received from the IMD,” the order read.