Monday, September 27, 2010

Pakistan Meteorological Department being a Ministry of Defence entity ?

It may surprise many,but it is true that Pakistan Meterological Department(PMD) is part of the Ministry of Defence.What direct relevance is there of weather with matters of war and peace should be known to those who put that department where it is now.Perhaps nowhere in the World is this department associated with the military or Defence except for antiquated regimes like North Korea and Mayanmar.In 19th century century days of Clausewitz ,weather data may have a had strategic value requiring security and secrecy.Today in the age of satellites and international weather modelling ,there is hardly any notion of sensitivity about this data.

But why should one bother about where a department is located hierarchically, so long such an association does not cause any problem in its functioning ,output and liaison with the users.There is an implication and a serious one.Due to being a MoD installation,there has always been an aura of secrecy about it. PMD has been found wanting in disseminating the data with the required facility and readiness.There is always some hesitation and number of questions asked and forms to be filled to get simple meteorological data which everywhere is available abundantly on the net without charge.Now bureaucracy has discovered another convenient device of hiding behind user charges and have started charging discouragingly high commercial charges for the data.It may be awkward to call the data to be sensitive and easy to deny and discourage access through demanding payments.And then making payments is not easy.You have to get an account number from the department,go to the State Bank of Pakistan ,make the payment,repeat the process if there is some discrepancy and the cycle goes on.Similarly FBS does with its data.They hardly earn any money and contribute towards financial sustainability,but manage to discourage data use and development.And in case of PMD,save the so called," sensitive' data.The consequence is that many scientific,economic and environmental applications that could have been developed and published could not be done. A number of which I can readily cite.Most EIA applications involving air pollution such as of power plants cannot be done because of the data restrictions.Expensive software like AERMOD has been made free by other countries,but for the ready availability of data.Flood modelling and water inundation cannot be made online because of restrictions on GIS.A lot of economic analysis is not undertaken on various regions of the country because CENSUS data is not made available in the required format or even made available online.A lot of flood information and analysis and forecast of flood flows could have been made available to the public in the form of flood maps,but for such restrictions esp on GIS.

In the case of PMD and its role in flood forecasting and organisational interfacing with the user departments,the jury is still to be out.The net result has been , a lack of coordination among the relevant organisations.Did PMD's special status a MoD entity prevent or discourage readily interacting directly with other departments or it had to go via?these questions would be and should be reviewed at the earliest opportunity.In any case PMDs association with the MoD and its secretive behavior is an anachronism which must change.It should be reorganized along open lines and appended to Ministry of Science and Technology or MINFAL .PMD itself should not have too much of a say in it, as they may not be objective about it due to the real estate advantages that come with MoD affiliation.

And lastly appending civilian institution to defence sector has many disadvantages,the most important being the budgetary issues.Defence expenditure unnecessarily becomes high and bulky reflecting poorly in political terms inviting undeserved criticism and hostility.Genuine requirements of Defence sector are too many and do not justify further agglomeration.

1 comment:

  1. Right on spot! There are other departments under Ministry of Defense like Survey of Pakistan and SUPARCO, and unless these agencies start disseminating relevant data for scientific analysis, rather than either blocking these data or acting as sales point, nothing will change.
    Asif Khan