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Doppler radar yet to clear fitness test

Almost two years after its installation, the much-touted Doppler Weather Radar, purchased at a cost of Rs. 10 crore, is yet to ease the city’s monsoon forecast woes.

mumbai Updated: Jul 10, 2012 01:24 IST
Nikhil M Ghanekar

Almost two years after its installation, the much-touted Doppler Weather Radar, purchased at a cost of Rs. 10 crore, is yet to ease the city’s monsoon forecast woes.

The Doppler radar was bought in October 2010, to give Mumbaiites real-time accurate monsoon forecast. However, it is yet to be officially commissioned.

Officials of the radar’s joint developer Bharat Electornics Limited (BEL) said the radar was initially meant for Kochi, but was hurriedly installed in Navy Nagar in Colaba. The company was then left grappling with several software issues, such as changing the core signaling system to suit Mumbai’s unique terrain.

A doppler radar generates weather data that maps monsoon clouds, estimates their precipitation and their potential rain carrying capacity. The IMD will share this data with the civic body, which will sound out alerts to mitigate impact of cloudbursts and very heavy rainfall.

However, uncertainty looms over when the radar will be officially commissioned, even as both BEL and India Meteorological Department (IMD) claim to be inching closer to completing the final repair work.

The idea of a Doppler radar was mooted after the July 26, 2005, deluge. In April 2010, the Union home ministry rejected the installation of the China-made Metstar radar at Colaba, citing security concerns. The IMD then hurriedly purchased an indigenous radar.

“The clutter and noise in the signaling system were the most prominent issues we were trying to resolve. As recently as June 22, the IMD wanted us to filter the clutter from the radar pictures,” said Kiran, additional general manager and project in-charge, BEL.

“Mumbai’s terrain on both the sea side and the land side is totally different from that of Kochi. After the first range of problems was discovered in the radar in 2011, we have been able to test it in monsoon conditions only now. Besides, we are not experts in meteorology, we took time to understand IMD’s requirements,” Kiran added.

The radar, which is presently operational 24X7 for repair purposes and monitoring, is undergoing a final and independent check from BEL. The company offered the radar for a site acceptance test (SAT) on Saturday.

“We have got the offer from BEL to go ahead with the SAT. After discussing with IMD, Delhi, we should begin the SAT in July end. We will be able to commission it officially only after that,” said NY Apte, deputy director-general, IMD, western region.

When asked if the IMD had found inherent faults with the radar’s technology and software, Apte said: “If the SAT results are negative we can say the technology is faulty, but not now.”