Thursday, June 02, 2016
Originally Published in the Sunday Times
The Meteorology (Met) Department’s 200 million rupee Doppler radar installed in 2011 has not been used and parts of it are now being sent back to the US manufacturer for repairs. The matter has been raised by the Auditor General’s Department which points out that, even though the Met Department is constantly criticised over the inaccuracy of its weather forecasts, the Doppler radar system established at Deniyaya has not been used to gather information even as at August this year.
Met Department Director General L. Chandrapala said the Doppler radar experienced technical issues after its installation. “Some of the parts of the radar have to be repaired,” he said. “They are not simple ones, they are heavy parts and we are working now on sending them back to the manufacturer in the US.”
Earlier this year, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) advertised for a radar expert for Sri Lanka. The job advertisement states that a trust fund agreement between the Government of Sri Lanka and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) for the installation of a Doppler radar system was signed in May 2007. The instrument was to be financed by Sri Lanka.
Within the framework of the Trust Fund project, it says, a purchase order for the supply and installation of the Doppler weather radar was placed with the Enterprise Electronics Corporation (EEC) of the US in June 2009. The radar system was shipped to Sri Lanka in October 2011.
“Due to the delay in the local work, the installation of the radar system has been postponed and the radar system has been kept at the radar site,” the web advertisement reads. “In October 2012, EEC reported that the radar system had been damaged due to the unfavourable condition at the radar site. This was confirmed by the report from the Department of Meteorology of Sri Lanka.” The expert was required to assess the status of the radar system stored at the site in Gongala peak.
Mr. Chandrapala said the expert did a site visit followed by an inspection by representatives of the manufacturer. It was concurred that the only solution was to ship some of the Doppler radar’s parts out for repair. Meanwhile, the Met Department is in discussions with Japanese parties to secure two more Doppler radars.
According to the World Meteorology Organisation, the Doppler weather radar is an essential precipitation (drizzle, rain, hail, etc) observing system for large scale areas. “They have been and will continue to be an important meteorological tool in severe weather warnings, precipitation estimation and its spatial distribution, air traffic management, disaster management, numerical weather prediction (verification and data assimilation), agriculture, hydrological, weather modification and climate applications,” a WMO website says.
In recent years, Sri Lanka has been badly affected by disasters brought out by severe weather.