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Project to assess tsunami hazard

Chennai, July 31: The central government has initiated a project for “hazard line mapping” to assess the danger posed by tsunamis while planning development activities along the country’s coastal areas.

The initiative includes “demarcation of a hazard line” covering India’s entire coast, “taking into account the waves, tides, sea-level rise, flooding and elevation”, said Union environment and forests minister A. Raja.

Plans for development activities, including settlements for local communities, would be prepared based on the hazard line, the minister said, while inaugurating an international conference on tsunami disaster management and coastal development. Ecologically sensitive areas will be accorded high priority and plans for their conservation will be drawn up.

The initiative is part of a “new approach to coastal zone management” to be adopted by the central government on the lines of recommendations by a committee formed to review the Coastal Zone Regulation Notification of 1991. The government has accepted the report submitted by the panel headed by agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan, the minister said at the conference organised by the Madras Development Society.

The environment and forest ministry had also carried out a “rapid assessment” of the ecological damage/change caused by the tsunami using satellite imagery, Raja said. It proposes to undertake detailed studies and implementation of programmes.

The initial study has revealed that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been the worst affected, with about 4,000 hectares of mangroves lost and 8,000 hectares badly damaged. Coral reefs have been damaged “either by deposition of debris and mud on the reefs or by physically being washed away”, Raja said. Most of the beaches in the Nicobar Islands ' the nesting sites of the endangered leatherback turtles ' have been washed away.

Recounting how the Japanese had overcome obstacles to tackle frequent tsunamis and shared experience with other countries, Japan’s consul-general in Chennai Yoshiaki Kodaki said his country was ready to cooperate with India to put up a Tsunami Early Warning System for the Indian Ocean region.

“We should not waste any more time and be prepared for the next tsunami.”

Prof S. Ramachandran, director of Anna University’s centre for ocean management, said the indigenous tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean region being jointly developed by the departments of ocean development and space, will be known as the “Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami System”. It will pick up noise signals of undersea turbulence and churning after an earthquake and transmit to receiving centres through satellite and was, he added.

Jaya Parthipan, member of the Malaysian Parliament, senior advocate R. Gandhi and president of the Madras Development Society V.R.S. Sampath dwelt on the themes of the two-day conference, organised with various central government ministries and NGOs’ including Oxfam.

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