The Telegraph
Tuesday , October 6 , 2015

Assam flood alarm system goes places

The swollen Jiadhal river in Dhemaji district. File picture

Guwahati, Oct. 5: An early flood warning system developed by Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in collaboration with Assam-based NGO Aaranyak, is being replicated in Nepal and Afghanistan.

This system makes innovative use of information and communication technology (ICT) by deploying simple electronic sensors to produce flood warning signals through wireless technology for disseminating flood warning messages to and through a wide network of communities and government agencies.

Altogether 20,000 people living in the catchment areas of two rivers, Jiadhal in Dhemaji and Singora in Lakhimpur districts in Assam, have been benefiting from this initiative directly and indirectly since 2010-11.

Every year during the rainy season, floods in these rivers cause human casualties and destroy public infrastructure (roads, railways) and private property (crops, agricultural land, fisheries, houses, livestock).

Officials of both districts have shown keen interest in the idea. The initiative had won the 2014 Lighthouse Activities award under the focal area of ICT solutions.

"Building on the successful experience in Assam, it has already been replicated in a tributary of Kosi basin in Nepal and work will soon start in a province in Afghanistan," Neera Shrestha Pradhan, a water and adaptation specialist with ICIMOD, told The Telegraph yesterday.

ICIMOD is a regional inter-governmental learning and knowledge-sharing centre serving eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayas - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.

A delegation of ICIMOD led by its director-general David Molden are on a tour to Assam where it will be visiting project sites and attend the Sustainable Mountain Development Summit in Itanagar from October 7-9.

Neera said three community-based flood early warning systems have been installed at selected sites along the Ratu river recently in Koshi basin. Community-based flood early warning system comprises devices engineered to alert downstream communities to rising river water during the monsoon season, allowing communities to evacuate in the event of a flood. It is being taken up with the department of hydrology and meteorology in Nepal.

Mock drills have been done in Nepal after the installation of three community-based flood early warning systems to raise awareness of the larger communities on how to integrate the system into their disaster response, and to better prepare the community and local volunteers in the event of a flood. The newly installed systems will be monitored over two monsoon seasons to determine whether they function properly.

"The systems have been modified to suit the local conditions in Nepal," another ICIMOD official said.

Officials from Focus Humanitarian Assistance-Afghanistan and the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority had attended a training programme in Nepal on the system in July this year.

Molden said the Northeast is an excellent place to work for ICIMOD and it would be expanding its activities more.

ICIMOD is working on a trans-boundary landscape programme - The Landscape Initiative for Far Eastern Himalayas (Hi-LIFE) - involving China, India, and Myanmar. The 71,000 square km landscape has seven important protected areas, including Namdapha National Park and tiger reserve.

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