Meteorological observatories lying idle in 530 schools

Calamity-prone Odisha has missed out on a golden opportunity to tackle natural disasters by not generating real-time data in 500-plus schools where meteorological observatories are virtually lying idle.

Even though natural disasters have been taking a heavy toll on lives and property every year, the State Government is showing no interest to put the observatories to use.

Under the Participation of Youth in Real-Time Observation to Benefit Education (PROBE), a Department of Science and Technology (DST) project, the observatories were installed in 530 schools across the State barring Malkangiri, Deogarh and Sambalpur.

The main objective under PROBE was to train students at secondary school level to take up meteorological observations for understanding of the day-to-day environment, including weather. The project, which was initiated in Uttarakhand in 2003 before being extended to Odisha and other states, was carried out through 36 agencies, including NGOs as well as national institutes and universities.

Since 2011, when the project was completed in the State, the observatories are virtually rotting with the school authorities not taking any interest to train the students.

“The onus was on teachers to train the students in collection of the data on a daily basis. Once the project period was over, not many are taking interest, barring some schools where the headmasters and the science teachers have been enthusiastic enough to train the students entirely on their own,” said an official of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).

The DST had asked IMD to inspect certain schools to study the effectiveness of the project. In some pockets, such as in Sukinda block, science teachers were found to be zealous enough to keep using the observatories. In some parts, schools have established Met Clubs to keep the instruments running. But the same sense of zeal was missing in other schools.

“The teachers do not get even honorarium which could have been an incentive to use the observatories on a daily basis so that data generated can be collected and used for disaster-mitigation purposes. Even the DST would be interested to take the project forward but there has been no enthusiasm on the part of the State Government,” said official sources.

The observatories generate all kinds of weather parameters except atmospheric pressure data. Significantly, the schools are located in rural pockets whereas the weather stations of IMD and other disaster mitigation agencies are mostly in urban centres.

“If the State Government could use the observatories to collect the huge amount of data they are capable of producing, it could be of immense help in studying the climate as well as drawing up strategies,” said an official of the Orissa State Disaster Mitigation Authority.

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