Panel on Tropical Cyclones

for the Bay of Bengal & the Arabian Sea


United Nations
Economic and Social Commission
for Asia and Pacific

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About Panel on Tropical Cyclones (PTC)

The WMO ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones

The WMO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones (PTC) for the Bay of Bengal and Arabian is an inter-governmental organization officially established in 1973 as a regional body of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) and World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and associated with the Tropical Cyclone Programme of WMO. The PTC aims to improve and coordinate programmes and measures of disaster prevention in the North Indian Ocean rim countries and reduce the loss of lives and properties caused by tropical cyclones related disasters. The PTC develops activities under three substantive components: meteorology, hydrology, and disaster prevention and preparedness (DPP), as well as in areas of training and research. The PTC has been exerting its effort to mitigate the impact of tropical cyclones in this region since its inauguration in 1973. The PTC activities are fundamental contribution to improving the regional and national resilience against the tropical cyclone threats.

How the PTC came into existence?

There is an interesting story about how the PTC came into existence and goes like this, “It was a dark and stormy night” because that is indeed exactly what it was. Unbelievably so at least for the one who had never before witnessed the violence of nature at such close quarters. In 1970, it was the month of October when a group of meteorologists from the countries around the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, were assembled in Dhaka, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to consider how to tackle the periodic heavy loss of life and increasing economic damage brought to the area by devastating tropical cyclones. The meeting was taking place in the Jute Research Institute (JRI) Dhaka. Not long before, the Typhoon Committee had been set up in 1968 with similar objectives in counteracting the effects of tropical cyclones in the Northwest Pacific. Should they follow the suit? That was the principal reason for their presence in Dhaka.

Three days of deliberation had resulted in a consensus in favour of a new regional approach to these age-old tropical cyclones related disasters. But what form should it take? There the divergence of views was sharp. Some favoured the higher status of an intergovernmental body whilst others considered that its objectives would be better served as a working group of WMO’s Regional Association II (Asia). The main contenders in this dialogue were Dr P.K. Das of India and Mr. M. Samiullah of Pakistan, the well-known and highly respected figures on the meteorological stage of their day.

As the experts entered the fourth day of discussion, the deadlock remained unbroken. Then, fortuitously in some ways, the discussions were interrupted by the threat of an approaching tropical cyclone. At the invitation of Mr. Samiullah, the meeting recessed so that the experts could visit the Dhaka radar station to see what was happening. It was soon apparent that the tropical cyclone could follow a track that would bring the storm up the Meghna River to strike the capital city of Dhaka directly. In this knowledge the experts returned to the JRI and resumed their work.

As afternoon moved into evening, the wind rose and the rain increased dramatically. By nightfall, there was power failure at JTI leaving the experts in darkness and without air conditioning. By then wind speed was more than 100 km per hour, causing the trees to blow over and dangerous objects to fly about. Owing to the stormy weather, the experts were trapped in the building and it was impossible for them to return to their hotels. There was unanimous agreement that their discussions should have to continue by candlelight and a solution must have to be found.

Perhaps the impact of the storm generated a new spirit of compromise, a feeling that the only really important thing was to get on with the job by any possible means. So it was, late at night, after many hours of discussions that it was decided to create an intergovernmental body and to name it the WMO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones (PTC). Towards midnight, when the meteorologists had reached a decision, the rain and the wind relented sufficiently for them to pick their way through the storm debris and fallen trees to regain their hotels for a well-earned night’s rest. Appropriately enough, the PTC may therefore consider itself a child of the storm.

Though the decision to form the PTC was made in Dhaka in 1970, it was only in 1973 that the inaugural first session of PTC could be held.

Copyright 2013
WMO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones
for the Bay of Bengal & the Arabian Sea