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The government of India is refusing to share data with its partners in the budding Indian Ocean tsunami warning system as soon as it becomes available.

The refusal is based on concerns that if India resumes nuclear testing and then releases seismic recordings in 'real time', the detailed seismic signatures would immediately be broadcast around the world, providing a detailed transcript of the nation's activities.

But delays in pinpointing an earthquake's location or confirming the build-up of waves could delay a tsunami warning.

India's stance on sharing data contrasts with its commitment to create the region's most ambitious warning centre for tsunamis and storm surges. The US$30 million plan significantly increases the country's number of tide gauges, seismic stations and sea-floor sensors and should reduce the time needed to assess a tsunami risk from 40 minutes to ten.

Some Indian officials acknowledge the risk that is being created by the government's refusal to share information immediately and are calling for a change in policy.

Meanwhile, efforts to bolster seismic stations elsewhere in the region are easing the concerns of critics.

Link to full article in Science

Reference: Science 310, 5754 (2005)

Read more about tsunamis in SciDev.Net's Tsunami update