Looking at the widespread destruction caused by tsunamis — triggered by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean on Sunday — experts at the M S University have emphasised the need of tsunami warning centres along the Indian coast.
Well-known geologist R V Karanth at MSU said that he had been talking about tsunamis in all his lectures, but the authorities concerned never took him seriously. Karanth said that in a recent lecture on earthquakes at Tamil Nadu’s Kalpakkam nuclear power plant, he had spoken about threat from tsunamis to Indian coastal areas but no one took his warnings seriously.
His warnings, he said, were based on studies that South East and Far East Asian countries were hit seriously by tsunamis at least once in a century. Quoting records, he said that a tsunami generated by an explosion in Krakatoa in Indonesia in 1883 reached 40 metres in height and drowned over 36,000 people on nearby coasts.
Over 300 villages were wiped out and the destruction reaced Calcutta, wrecking river boats and settlements along the Indian coast.
‘‘A massive earthquake is expected every century in Indonesia and if it occurs close to the coast, tsunamis thus created could threaten the Indian coast,’’ said Karanth, an earthquake expert.
‘‘Indonesia is known for its earthquakes and there is no surprise that it happened in Indonesia. Whenever it happens, it will always be of a high magnitude,’’ he said.
That is probably why geologists in India have been stressing on proper mapping and waves detection facilities along the coastal areas, he said. Countries in the Pacific are now equipped with tsunami warning centres that alert all the neighboouring countries the moment there is any unexpected subsea activity. India, which has a cyclone warning system, does not have a tsunami warning centre.
‘‘This is a warning bell for India and it’s time we take a close look at coastal settlements and ensure safety by installing tsunami detection and warning centres,” said Nikhil Desai, another geologist studying various effects along the coast at ISRO’s Marine and Water Resource Group.
Scientists are currently conducting a nationwide project to map the Indian coastline using remote sensing data and satellite images.
They believe that blatant violation of the coastal regulation rules and illegal settlements have increased the need to monitor the coasts of India.
Researchers involved in the project believe that due to intense developmental pressures along the coast coupled with degrading condition of mangroves, it has become necessary to assess the health of the ecosystem.
Geologists say that such satellite images and constant monitoring of the coasts can give current images of wave movement and would be able to detect an approaching tsunami. On Sunday, though all seismographs picked up the earthquake as early as 6.30 am, there were no systems in place to detect a tsunami. The tsunamis travelling at around 800km per hour hit Tamil Nadu three hours later, they say.
Currently there are no information systems or indicators along the coastal regions. Disastrous tsunamis are a serious threat to 22 countries surrounding the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre rapidly locates subsea earthquakes, estimates their potential for initiating a tsunami and quickly warns countries that may be in danger.