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Sagar Sampada to study impact of tsunami

By K.S. Sudhi

KOCHI, JAN. 4. Sagar Sampada, the country's scientific research vessel, is to go on a 15-day-long trip along the eastern and western coast to assess the impact of the tsunami disaster.

The expedition, coordinated and facilitated by the Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology (CMLRE) of the Department of Ocean Development (DOD), is perhaps the first scientific study of marine resources and the impact of the tsunami attack to be done.

The vessel that will set sail tomorrow evening from the Kochi harbour had just returned from Colombo a day before the tsunami struck the island. It had undergone major repairs there. The office space allotted for the scientists and crew at the Colombo dockyard was also inundated during the tsunami attack.

The team of 12 researchers led by R. Damodaran, former Dean of the Department of Marine Sciences of the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat), will undertake studies to examine the impact of the tsunami on the sea floor and its resources and hydrographic characters of the sea including dissolved oxygen content, turbidity, salinity and nutrients.

Along the western coast, samples would be collected off Kozhikode, Kochi, Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram and Kanyakumari. On the eastern coast, Nagapattinam, Cuddalore, Chennai, Krishnapattinam and Kavali would be covered, said Ravindranath, advisor to the DOD.

Dr. Damodaran said the scientists would collect benthic organisms and sediment samples and check hydrographic parameters at these stations to be compared with the data generated from the earlier DOD-funded study on benthic community and shelf water along the Exclusive Economic Zone of the country.

Two cruises

He said that during the earlier study, the vessel had made two trips each along the eastern and western coasts between 1998 and 2001 as part of the first systematic study along the Indian shelf waters. The data generated from the earlier rounds would be treated as the benchmark data to assess the impact of the tsunami on the sea floor and the living resources there, he said.

Scientists from the CMLRE, Cusat, the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) and the Andhra and Annamalai Universities would take part in the expedition. Scientists on board Sagar Sampada would collect samples from the ocean floor from depths ranging from 30 metres to 200 m to assess the possible quantitative and qualitative impact of the tsunami attack on the sea floor and living organisms, Dr. Damodaran said.

The scientists of the NIO will focus on collecting data from near-shore areas separately, with hired boats, as the Sagar Sampada cannot go to shallow waters. No study on the impact of the tsunami will be complete without the data from beaches, where large quantities of sediments were deposited by the waves, said Mr. Ravindranath. It would be ideal for the universities located at the coastal belt to conduct such a study, he said.

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