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[DHAKA] India has offered to set up a centre to provide early warnings of imminent natural disasters to countries in the Bay of Bengal region.

The offer came as the member nations of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) met in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 1 June.

At the meeting, the seven nations — Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand — agreed for the first time to cooperate on disaster management.

Announcing India's proposal to journalists, Bangladesh's foreign secretary Hemayetuddin, did not elaborate on when the centre would be set up or how it would operate.

An official at Bangledesh's foreign ministry told SciDev.Net that each country would supply information to a central database, which would be used to provide warnings of events such as floods, cyclones, droughts and tsunamis.

The official, who asked not to be named, added that the seven countries would develop India's proposal, which was still at an early stage.

An early warning system such as that proposed would have reduced the number of lives lost in the Indian Ocean tsunami on 26 December 2004, which caused massive destruction in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and killed close to 300,000 people.

Although tsunamis are rare events, other natural disasters such as cyclones and flooding regularly affect countries in the Bay of Bengal region.

BIMSTEC was set up in June 1997 primarily to promote socio-economic cooperation between its seven member states.

In March, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) proposed that countries in the region work together on disaster preparedness, but the plans have not been developed because the 13th SAARC summit has been postponed until November this year.


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

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