Even as Maharashtra continues to grapple with consecutive agrarian crises due to irregular rainfall — the latest being a deluge in Marathwada causing massive crop losses, a proposal to set up 2,065 automatic weather stations across the state to get micro-level weather data has been gathering dust.
The weather stations, one for each cluster of about 20 to 30 villages, will record several weather parameters important for agriculture such as temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, rainfall, solar radiation, leaf wetness, soil moisture and temperature and atmospheric pressure.
With information on most factors to be available every 10 minutes, the project is touted to be helpful in minimising losses due to disasters, preparing location-specific advisories, designing crop insurance schemes and building a weather data bank.
The project was first taken up for implementation in 2012 under the erstwhile Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) when the state government-appointed Skymet, India’s first private weather forecasting company, as consultant to implement it on a public-private partnership model. The tender was cancelled later, citing technical reasons.
However, after consecutive bouts of drought and unseasonal rains causing massive crop losses, especially in Vidarbha and Marathwada regions, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government decided to revive in 2015 and called for bids, which were also terminated.
An official from the state agriculture department said, “Three companies had qualified in the bidding process, but quoted costs that were much higher than our estimates. Later, we also decided to cut down on some of the sensors for data parameters, and stuck to the ones absolutely essential for agriculture to reduce costs, but the tenders still did not work out.”
The state government had estimated the cost of setting up 2,065 automatic weather stations, one for each of the 2,065 revenue circles in the state, at Rs217 crore.
The official added that states such as Karnataka and Gujarat have already taken steps to set up automatic weather stations on similar lines and the Maharashtra government is studying their implementation models to re-initiate the project in the state. “The Gujarat government is getting data from private players to whom it has given land and premises to set up systems. The Karnataka government has implemented the project as a cash contract and owns the weather data generated. We will study both models, prepare a comprehensive proposal and present it to the state government for approval,” the official said.
The state’s relief and rehabilitation department, which is the nodal point for monitoring crop losses and disbursing aid, is also keen on implementing the project.