PMD upgrading at mercy of foreign donors

ISLAMABAD: Two years have passed, but the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) is still waiting for the government to deliver on its promise to release Rs19 billion for upgrading its early warning system.

In June 2016 Nawaz Sharif, prime minister then, had asked the PMD to submit a report on its failure to give a heads-up on the windstorms that hit Islamabad, parts of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, claiming several precious lives.

The PMD submitted the report in the same month, stating that its failure to issue storm alerts had much to do with outdated weather radars and that it required Rs19 billion for upgrading the system.

The PM House agreed to provide funds for PMD upgradation, but could not deliver on its promise till December 2016 due to financial constraints.

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Then in April 2017, the upgradation project was made part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for which China agreed to provide $200 million.

“So far, the PMD has not received a single penny even though it needs to install more weather radars and replace the outdated ones,” said an official of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), requesting anonymity.

With no positive response from the government, a comprehensive plan was devised to grasp the attention of several countries and donor agencies, but unfortunately that did not pan out either.

Recently, the World Bank approved $130 million in loan for Pakistan to upgrade its early warning system, said the CAA official. Though the amount would not upgrade the entire early warning system, it would at least help cover the priority areas, he added.

“The amount, after passing through all the required procedures, will be received after mid-2018,” said the official.

He added that the government of Japan was already technically and financially supporting the PMD in obtaining and replacing outdated radars.

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