Readying the nation to face the next devastating tsunami: response to Dr. Goel

tsunami2.jpgSunda plate thrust (plate tectonics) which will cause the next tsunami on Indian Ocean (Nature Magazine, 6 Sept. 2007)

tsunami1.jpgA model of tsunami likely to hit Indian coast (Nature Magazine, 6 Sept. 2007)

indraindranifaults.jpgIndra, Indrani fault lines flanking Rama Setu

heatflowmap.jpgRama Setu as rama’s hotspot with as an intense geothermal zone

japantsunamiwall1.jpgA tsunami protection wall built on Japan coastline

 Dear Dr. Goel,

Thanks for your note of Feb. 11, 2008

For ready reference, I am attaching the following:

Annex A (Background info. on mails/letters sent earlier)

Annex B (Threatened tsunami in Indian Ocean , Nature magazine)

Annex C Letters by scientists

Annex D Geotectonic, Geothermal, Geoenvironmental aspects of Setusamudram

At the outset, please accept hearty congratulations for setting up a world-class tsunami warning system. This is a feather in the cap of Dept. of Earth Sciences and the Indian scientific community. Present and future generations will hail the scientists for this superb achievement.

Sorry for the six-days’ delay in responding to your email, Dr. PS Goel. I thought I should take time to bring to your attention science issues beyond the tsunami warning system on an issue of such serious national concern, affecting the integrity of Bharatiya coastline.

Every scientist also has social responsibility and when a scientist goes to town with half-baked information which is likely to be misreported by the media, and mis-interpreted by readers, caution is warranted.

I am shocked that science has become a parody on the issue related to Rama Setu and I am dismayed by the types of opinions being bandied about in the media by scientists who are expected to show a certain degree of national, civic responsibility.

Let me focus attention on the following aspects covered in detail in the annexed documents which have been made available earlier to the Govt. functionaries.

The issue related to a forthcoming tsunami reported by a responsible science magazine, Nature in its issue of Sept. 6, 2007 is, in my view, the most serious warning faced by India for centuries.

If a devastation is anticipated which will expose 6 to 7 crore people from Kolkata to Kerala at risk by a devastating tsunami, more devastating than the 26 December 2004 tsunami, it is the responsibility of scientific community to take notice, deliberate, investigate and come up with specific and IMMEDIATE action plans to alleviate the impending sufferings of people – given the rehabilitation experience of 26 Dec. 2004 — and possible damage to the properties in the coastline of the Indian Ocean.

I accuse the Government of India utter irresponsibility on the following grounds:

  1. Why hasn’t Govt. responded to Prof. Tad Murty’s citation of the Alaska tsunam of 1964 which devastated the Alberni port on the Alberni canal? Is Setu channel any different from Alberni canal situation?
  2. Why haven’t the scientists who reported in the Nature magazine of 6 Sept. 2007 been contacted and why haven’t a series of scientific meets organized to review the oncoming threat and recommend palliative measures?
  3. Establishing a tsunami warning system is one thing; taking preventive measures to mitigate the effects of a tsunami is another. What steps have been initiated and publicised by the Government on tsunami protection measures?
Here is a picture of a tsunami wall in Japan coast (attached).
  1. Is the Govt. aware that Japan has built tsunami walls (see attached picture) in the ocean because tsunami’s recur (caused as they are recurring tectonic (lateral and vertical) movements in earth crust)? Why hasn’t the Govt. publicised the tsunami protection measures of this type as part of disaster management? This is critical to inform the people and involve the communities to be ready to face the impending disaster.
  2. Why hasn’t the Government publicized the scientific 3D or modelling studies and investigations using satellite images of Cartosat or other aerial methods of surveillance and why hasn’t the Government responded publicly to the Nature magazine report?
  3. Has the Parliament been taken into confidence about the scientific investigations following the Nature magazine report which should have sent alarm bells ringing all along the long coastline of Bharatam and among the entire scientific, management, public service and engineering community?
  4. Has the Govt. studied and responded to the geothermal, geotectonic and geothermal situation in Setusamudram, aspects which were NOT taken into account while designing the project disaster called the Setu mid-ocean channel passage, an enterprise unprecedented in the annals of human civilization? Can the Govt. name one such operational mid-ocean channel?
  5. Why hasn’t the Govt. made public the scientific and other investigation reports and over 8000 pages of evidence/public opinions submitted to the so-called Baalu Committee (or Eminent Persons Committee on SSCP)?
  6. Why was the 2005 report of the consultant of National Institute of Ocean Technology which stated that there are indications of ancient human activity on Rama Setu and that it was a man-made construction doctored by Dept. of Earth Sciences, while responding to the request for information of His Excellency the President of India Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam?
  7. If Govt. has already done studies pursuant to the Nature magazine warning, why were they not published so that people are kept informed of the Govt. efforts to cope with the next, oncoming tsunami?
  8. Is the Govt. aware that the project area is evidenced by mannar volcanic rocks and that this is a hotspot with thermal springs and potential for generation of thermal electric power?
  9. What do the Govt. simulation studies indicate on the status of the world’s nuclear resource zone (the coastal zone 100 kms. from Rama Setu accounting for 32% of the world’s reserves of thorium)?
  10. What action has Govt. taken to remove the private sand godowns which have come up exporting monazite, ilmenite, rutile, zircon, garnet sands containing thorium and titanium?
  11. What plans are proposed to safeguard the nation’s wealth of these mineral resources vital for the nation’s energy independence programme based on stage 3 thorium-based breeder reactors?

It is great indeed to talk science. But then, we have to accept the reality that on an issue like this related to an ecological project disaster which adversely impacts the coastal/marine people is a peoples’ concern and scientists have a moral responsibility to show compassion to peoples’ lives and coastal peoples’ livelihood concerns and not parrot scientific half-truths indulging in suggestio falsi and suppressio veri without taking into account the multi-dimensional aspects involved such as oceanography, naval security, nautical/maritime options, law of the sea, protection of the ecosphere and of course, the lives and property of the long coastline of 8118 kms. of Bharat. This ain’t no issue to be flippantly dismissed as someone’s dream. This is a question related to national sovereignty, national integrity and national security. Why haven’t alternatives of Marine Economic Zone discussed and presented by scientists and policy makers to remedy a bad dream? Such an MEZ has the potential to make the nation realize Rs. 40,000 crores of foreign exchange earnings per annum by export of marine products (considering the five-fold increase in fish landings in the Indian Ocean ) of which Rs. 10,000 crores will relate to Tamilnadu coastal/marine zone. Juxtapose this against the paltry anticipated income of Rs. 200 crores from SSCP. These numbers and the economic viability of the project itself are doubtful of achievement, if the annual expenses of Indian Navy to guard the proposed channel are taken into account. These costs may completely negate the anticipated returns and render the unprecedented mid-ocean channel passage a perpetual sick unit from day one in the stormy cyclones and tsunamis of the Palk Straits.

Dr. S. Kalyanaraman

Former Sr. Exec., Asian Development Bank, Chennai

17 Feb. 2008

On Feb 11, 2008 4:52 PM, Dr. P.S. Goel <> wrote:

Dear Dr. Kalyanararaman,

            I have seen your e-mail dated 6th February, 2008 today as I was away on tour.  I am not reacting to your remarks which are unfortunately not in good spirit.  Let us talk Science.

1.                  My colleagues have done computer simulations with and without the Setu Samundran for the 2004 Tsunami.  We can do any specific study issuing the simulation models.   The model worked will for September 12, 2007 event.

2.                  We are doing vulnerable studies for the whole coast.  Quite a lot work has been done already.

3.                  We have an operational Tsunami Warning System at Hyderabad.  It has been acclaimed as the best by Tsunami Experts from IOC/ICG a UN Body.

4.                  We are monitoring all the low and high seismic activities in the region in real time.  We are also monitoring tide gauges data on continuous basis at more than 25 locations on Indian coast.  So, it is possible for us to analyse sea water changes very precisely.

However, it is not my wish to get engaged in arguments and bringing non scientific issues. If you feel we need to address scientifically, please feel free to contact.


With  regards,

Yours sincerely,

(P.S. Goel)

—– Original Message —–
From: kalyan97 <>
Date: Thursday, February 7, 2008 6:44 pm
Subject: Fwd: Rama Setu: politicking by Hon’ble TR Baalu and Dr. PS Goel
Here’s a geologist’s comment for your consideration.
> Thanks. kalyan>

———- Forwarded message ———-
> From: Gopalakrishnan Kuppuswamy <>
> Date: Feb 7, 2008 6:30 PM
> Respected Dr. Kalyana Raman,>                                                The article in “Nature” magazine and the remarks of Dr. Tad S, Murthy pertain to large scale tsunamis. Such tsunamis are generated due to high Magnitude earthquakes generated at the Active Plate Margins of the earth with thrust faulting as the one near Sumatra. as well as due to some major volcanic eruptions as has happenened during the eruption of Krakatau volcano in Indonasia in 1883. The author of the article in Nature and Dr, Murthy warn against the surge of water through the linear narrow SSCP channael with added force during the next Tsuanami to cause vast devastations. Dr. Goel appears to have not understood this point.>
>  > Besides, Dr. Goel is probabble unaware of the formation of local tsunamis ans mini-tunamis that are produced due to normal faulting accompanied by moderate to high magnitude earthquakes. The SSCP project is riddled with such fault movements and moderate to high magnitude earthquakes, and the resultant local / mini-tsunamis are manifested in the form of frequent withdrawal of sea in some sectors and incursion of sea in other sectors This phenomenon is repeated frequently along the Tamil Nadu coast in the recent times. Such withdrawals of sea are reported in Tiruchendur and Rameswaram. Most recently, high tidal waves destroyed the fishing villages in North Madras. Although it was attributed to the major cyclne Cidr, it is pertinent to note that there was no cloud cover or rain in Chennai during that day as well as no high winds blowing along Chennai coast, although the cyclone was reported to move with speed of over 150 to 200 km/hour. Such activities are the result of mini-tsunamis. Such faulting accompanied by mini-tsunamis will not only affect and destroy the coastl areas, but also the shipping canal itself and filli it with additional sedimentation resulting in blockagae of the sea passage.These aspeects have to be studied thoroughly by various modeling studies.>
> K.Gopalakrishnan
Dr. P.S. Goel
Secretary to the Government of India
Ministry of Earth Sciences
‘Mahasagar’ Bhawan, Block-12
C.G.O. Complex, Lodi Road
New Delhi – 110 003
INDIATel: +91 11 24360874/24362548/24306801
Fax: +91 11 24362644/24360336

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