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We need to understand the earth better: Earth scientist Harsh K Gupta

HYDERABAD: Eminent earth scientist Dr Harsh K Gupta raised a concern about the changing global environment but has said it was necessary to know for sure how man was responsible for it. Gupta, a former director of the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) and now a member of the National Disaster Management Authority ( NDMA) said one has to understand how the planet earth really functions so that one could make it less vulnerable. 

"The temperatures in Washington went down to minus 15 degrees C and in Dakota to minus 30 degrees C. This had never happened before. Are we going into an ice age? What is the anthropogenic (human) contribution to what is happening?" he asked. Gupta was speaking to newsmen on Tuesday in connection with the Indian Geophysical Union's 50th annual convention which will be inaugurated by nobel laureate Prof Y T Lee, president, International Council for Science on Wednesday. 

Gupta said there were unresolved scientific questions globally and they need to be discussed. The questions include: "Should we fertilize the ocean?" "Are GM crops good?" "There are some burning issues. There should be a white paper on these questions. Scientists can come to a unified opinion on such questions so that governments can take decisions," he said. 

Harsh Gupta said such opinion was important as the government could take a decision on policy matters relating to 1.2 billion people in the country. 

The scientist said the opinions of scientists matters as they carried weight but the opinion of scientists should also be based on area-specific matters in so far as earthquakes are concerned. Gupta said 180 people were killed in an earthquake in Italy which was hit by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake. Scientists were sued because they had carried out studies pertaining to earlier quakes in the region and declared that the region would never be hit by a big quake. As a result of the conclusion of the scientists people stayed indoors and were killed in the quake. 

Gupta explained that studies are conducted for plate boundaries areas and shield areas. Explaining the terms, he said shield area are where quakes are hardly expected because of their location while plate boundaries are which are susceptible to quakes because of the plates movement in the earth. 

To a question, Gupta said India has the best system Tsunami warning system which was put in place after the December 26, 2004 Tsunami in which 15,000 people were killed in Indian alone. In the Marina beach in Mumbai, people walking on the shore hardly imagined that the huge waves would devour them, he said. 

He said because of the technology of the Tsunami warning system, India has not given a single false alert.

The Times of India (07-01-2014)