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Mumbai residents to get live rainfall data on their cellphones during monsoon

Residents of Mumbai will soon receive live rainfall updates every 15 to 30 minutes on their cellphones. The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) is planning to set up a mega network of 200 to 250 Automatic Rain Gauges (ARG) across India’s financial capital by June this year. With this, people will be updated about rainfall in a particular locality of Mumbai, especially during the rainy season, and keep a check on the water levels, thus ensuring their own safety.

MoES has entrusted Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, which will partner with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), in installing and maintaining these rain gauges. M Rajeevan, secretary, MoES, shared details of this first-of-its-kind project in India with The Indian Express, saying, “IITM is designing and working to establish a network of at least 200 to 250 ARGs in Mumbai that will provide real-time rainfall information. Additionally, we also plan to install a radar that will also supply rainfall details for every one kilometre area.

These two data sets will be combined to prepare a spatial map, using which live rainfall details can be shared with people. For effective use, we are introducing these services on mobile phone platforms.” At present, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) owns two ARGs at its observatories in Colaba and Santacruz. BMC too has a handful of rain gauges that were installed after the severe flooding in 2005. Though Indian cities and towns have expanded rapidly in the last decade, the Met office has not been able to match this pace in terms of installing Automatic Weather Stations or AWGs.

“It is true that we have a limited number of Automatic Weather Stations and AWGs in our cities and we are consciously working to increase our network under the Urban Meteorology project. Initially, it will be be undertaken in metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai,” said the MoES secretary. The ministry’s ultimate and long-term goal of establishing such a network is aimed at monitoring water levels, especially after heavy rainfall in any area, and warning people well in advance.

“With this network, it will be possible to get an overall picture of every locality. This information can then be sent to alert people and can be used in improving preparedness,” said Rajeevan. Once operational, the ministry plans to replicate similar networks in other Indian cities, the senior MoES official said.

“Once fully operational, we can even attempt to predict water levels in the city during rainy season. This task is very complicated as we will also need to study the area’s topography, its drainage system, sea tides in case of coastal cities, along with rainfall…but people need such customised services,” said Rajeevan.

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