Functional Doppler radar at Banihal could have averted Amarnath tragedy

Army soldiers search for bodies of pilgrims after cloudburst hit Baltal base camp near Amarnath cave shrine in central Kashmir's Ganderbal district on Friday July 8,2022. [Representational Image]
Army soldiers search for bodies of pilgrims after cloudburst hit Baltal base camp near Amarnath cave shrine in central Kashmir's Ganderbal district on Friday July 8,2022. [Representational Image] Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

New Delhi: More than two years after the announcement, Doppler radar at Banihal in J&K is still not functional.

It is a crucial missing link that could have helped avert the tragic deaths of over a dozen people near the Amarnath Cave on Friday.

At least 15 people died and several others are suspected to have been washed away due to a flash flood.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) had forecast only “very light rain” and later said that such localised high rainfall events occur regularly even when authorities term it an event of a cloudburst.

Amarnath Yatra has been suspended for the time being in the wake of chaos and persisting bad weather conditions.A Doppler radar is an important tool that gives the IMD a more accurate assessment of the clouds and rainfall in the given range of the radar, 100 km in the case at Banihal.

At Banihal, this Doppler radar is an X-band radar to be installed at a high point to get clearer access to the atmospheric changes in the hilly terrain.

The location is under the Defence Geoinformatics Research Establishment (DGRE), that too at a high altitude, away from any village.

“That is the reason, there are accessibility issues too. Also, it may have been announced earlier, but the procurement procedure is lengthy,” said a scientist from IMD.

The radar is slated to cover the entire Pir Panjal range and once functional would also help predict better weather forecasts for the 270-km Srinagar-Jammu National Highway.

IMD's Upper Air Instrumentation Division is working on giving the final touches and currently, the testing is going on.

IMD's Director General (Meteorology) Mrutyunjay Mohapatra said, “The work is going on.”

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