Weather authority admits its radar system is outdated

Valid for 10 years, the system should have been replaced in 2007

Qamar Zaman March 30, 2016


With torrential rain and flooding causing damage worth billions of rupees in recent years, Pakistan’s top weather forecasting authority has claimed it cannot issue proper warnings as its radars are obsolete.

On Tuesday, a parliamentary panel was informed that waves of flooding triggered by torrential rain had caused losses of over $17 billion to the national exchequer while the Pakistan Meteorological Department’s (PMD) weather radars are outdated.

And this is not the end. The PMD has been running from pillar to post to upgrade its system, purchased first in 1976 and then in 1997 with a 10-year life. The acquisition request is under consideration of the Planning Commission.

These details were shared by Chief Meteorological Officer Muhammad Riaz before the Senate’s Functional Committee on Less Developed Areas during a discussion on the 2015 monsoon contingency plan.

“The committee should help address this issue,” the officer said while referring to the undue delay in buying new weather radars. “We have also asked the World Bank for purchasing the radars.”

Senator Usman Kakar, who heads the Senate panel, believed the proposal was pending with the Planning Commission because of potential kickbacks.

He called for the earliest acquisition and installation of radars in Nowshera on Kabul River, in Sukkur and other less developed areas.

Massive losses

The National Disaster Management Authority’s (NDMA) Brig (retd) Ishtiaq informed the panel that Pakistan suffered losses worth $17 billion and the districts of Dera Ghazi Khan, Chitral, Dir, Swat and Kohistan would remain vulnerable to flash floods every year.

Senator Samina Abid referred to the contributing factors for changes in weather patterns and expressed surprise over the government’s decision to install a new coal power plant in Sahiwal. “The world is shutting down coal-powered projects and we have started an anti-climate project,” she said.

She appealed for a blanket ban on logging across the country and for including subjects related to climate change in the school syllabus.

The panel chairman believed the cities would soon be deserted if effective steps were not taken to counter climate change.

Senator Kakar recommended launching a comprehensive awareness campaign in the country. Seminars should be organised in all districts where parliamentarians should educate the masses about climate change and its impacts, he said.

He also requested the prime minister should stop all projects launched for the benefit of industrialists that were damaging to the climate.

Senator Mir Kabeer lamented the federal government and its ministers were overlooking this very important subject while shifting the responsibility on to provinces in light of the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

Both Kakar and Kabeer complained to the NDMA that the people affected by floods are not given compensation amounts as per commitment which puts a question mark on the sincerity of the institutions. “Half of the [compensation] amount is embezzled,” claimed Kabeer.

Senator Kakar also lamented there were still no warehouses in Balochistan or the Federally Administered Tribal Areas for the relief and support of the flood-affected people.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th,  2016.


Ali | 5 years ago | Reply Why is it so difficult to understand that if the US, UK, China, India most of Europe generate most of their power via coal, then there's a very good reason i.e. it's the most economical, cheapest method. Compared to them the amount of pollution we'd put out from the proposed plants would be minuscule. Not building coal power plants and relying on furnace oil like we do now would be tantamount to shooting ourselves in the foot. We can't afford renewable energy on a large scale because it's too expensive. Most of the electricity we generate is already subsidized and the stuff we do generate is either lost or stolen Dams can't generate electricity all year either.
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