Is India Tsunami Ready? - Present And The Future
TerraGreen|January 2021
India is recognized as a tsunami service provider for the Indian Ocean region by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). IOC is a global body supporting global ocean science and services. In August 2020, the IOC recognized two coastal villages of Odisha as 'Tsunami Ready' for their tsunami preparedness. The country has a well-equipped tsunami early warning system in place since 2007, but what is it more that India needs to be fully tsunami ready? The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) in Hyderabad—an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India—has been providing ocean information and advisory services to the country for nearly two decades now. This includes issuing warnings and alerts about tsunamis, high waves, swells, storm-surges, and other ocean-related phenomena through sustained ocean observations and continuous improvements through research. In an interview with Dr T Srinivasa Kumar, Director, INCOIS, we understand the present status of tsunami readiness in India and what must be done by the country to be ready to combat dangers from impending tsunamis in the future.
Dr T Srinivasa Kumar

Please tell us what makes the Indian Ocean a tsunami-prone region?

The Indian Ocean region is prone to tsunamis generated by potential sources from two subduction zones in the region, Andaman-Sumatra Subduction Zone and Makran Subduction Zone (near Northern Arabian Sea). India lies in the middle of these two subduction zones, therefore, both the east and west coasts of India including islands in the Arabian Sea (Lakshadweep) and the Bay of Bengal (Andaman and Nicobar Islands) are prone to tsunamis. Although tsunamis are less frequent in the Indian Ocean compared to the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean has witnessed many devastating earthquakes in the past. Before 2004, there was a paucity of well-documented information on prehistoric events of tsunamis. Hence, an early warning system for tsunamis in the Indian Ocean region was missing. This was recognized as one of the major gaps that lead to enormous damage in the Indian Ocean region in 2004.

Which tsunami early warning systems are currently operational in India?

The devastating tsunami of December 26, 2004 in the Indian Ocean adversely impacted fourteen countries and caused enormous loss of life in India. This prompted the Government of India to establish a tsunami early warning system as a multi-institutional project, under the aegis of the Ministry of Earth Sciences. The tsunami early warning centre was established at the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) in Hyderabad. The country has a well-established earthquake and sea-level observation network since 2007 which comprises real-time seismic stations, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) stations, bottom pressure recorders, tide gauges, and high-frequency coastal radars. The tsunami early warning centre at INCOIS operates 24X7 and receives data in real-time. This implies that our country is equipped to detect any tsunamigenic earthquakes in the Indian Ocean as well as other oceans. It also monitors sea-level changes. Data from the Indian Tsunami Early Warning System is assessed continuously to provide timely advisories to vulnerable communities with back-end support of tsunami modelling, decision support system, computational infrastructure, and communication networks.

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