About Panel on Tropical Cyclones (PTC)
The WMO ESCAP Panel on
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
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
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
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