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KARACHI, March 23: Stressing the need for an accurate weather forecast, speakers at a seminar said that timely and correct information could help minimise adverse effect of natural disasters like cyclones, tsunamis and floods, and precious lives could be saved by relocating vulnerable communities.

The seminar was organised by the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) at the Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics (IMG) on Saturday in connection with World Meteorological Day, which is observed globally on March 23 every year.

This year the theme of the day is: “Watch the weather to protect life and property — celebrating 50 years of the world weather watch.”

The speakers said that in the past 30 years natural disasters had killed over two million people and caused economic losses of over $15 trillion and more than 70 per cent of causalities and around 80 per cent of economic losses were caused by weather-related incidents, such as cyclones, storms, heat waves, droughts, floods and weather-related epidemics.

A retired official of the department, Mohammad Muslehuddin, gave the day’s background and said that the World Meteorological Organisation had launched the World Weather Watch programme to facilitate the development and enhancement of the generation and dissemination of analyses and forecast products and serve weather advisories and warnings and related operational information.

The activities carried out under this programme collectively ensured that member countries had access to required information to enable them to provide data, prediction and information services and products to the end-users, he said.

He said that at the time of independence there were 45 observatories in the country and the number had risen to 77 now.

He said that data was collected every three hours and analysed and used to issue forecasts.

He said that the oldest observatory in the country was at Manora — the entrance to the Karachi harbour — and it was around 130 years old while 13 other observatories in the country were over 100 years old.

He said some of the observatories were in remote areas like Dalbandin, Astore, Chitral and Gilgit.

PMD chief meteorologist Tauseef Alam gave a briefing on the department’s development projects.

He said that 10 seismometers and other equipment had been installed under the Pakistan-China seismic network with over 90 per cent expenses being borne by China.

He said that the Chinese vice president during his visit to Pakistan would inaugurate the project in the second week of April.

He said 10 automatic stations — four in Sindh and six in Balochistan — had been installed at a cost of over Rs156 million in coastal areas.

He said that a new 73-metre-high radar in Karachi was being planned with the assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The present radar was just 18 metres high, he added.

He said that a media centre was being set up at the PMD Lahore office with the assistance of the UNESCO.

The PMD set-up in Karachi and Lahore airports had ISO-9001-2008 certificates, he added.

IMG chief Abdul Rashid said that unchecked consumption of natural resources was causing climatic change, which could be seen by untimely and severe rains while increased and unchecked emissions of green house gasses were leading to global warming resulting in rise in sea level and all these phenomena were collectively affecting the economy.

He said that weather and natural calamities did not follow political boundaries and it was essential that the weather data collected by all countries was shared so that everyone could know if any calamity was coming towards them and they could take timely protective steps to help minimise loss of precious lives and property.

Later, a three-day exhibition of various equipment and gadgets used by the department to collect and analyse weather data was inaugurated. The exhibition being held at the PMD offices near Safoora Chowk off University Road would remain open on Sunday and Monday from 10am to 5pm.