Assam NGO gets UN award - To receive prize on Dec. 11

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By ROOPAK GOSWAMI
  • Published 26.11.14
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The Aaranyak team with the warning system

Guwahati, Nov. 25: Aaranyak, an Assam-based NGO working for the conservation of nature, has won an United Nations award for its community-based flood early warning system that has benefited 40 villages in flood-prone Dhemaji and Lakhimpur districts.

It has won the award along with Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) for the 2014 Lighthouse Activities awards under the focus area of information and communication technology (ICT) solutions.

The award was declared today by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn and will be showcased at a series of special events during the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru (December 1-12). Representatives of Aaranyak and ICIMOD will go to Lima to receive the award on December 11.

The community-based flood early warning system makes innovative use of 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, have been benefiting from this initiative directly and indirectly since 2010-11.

“It is a happy news for all of us. This shows that the indigenous system developed for flood affected people has been appreciated at an international level,” Partha J. Das, head of the water, climate and hazard programme, Aaranyak, told The Telegraph.

The 2014 Lighthouse Activities were selected by a 25-member international advisory panel as part of the secretariat’s momentum for change initiative, implemented with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

The Lighthouse Activities are some of the most practical, scalable and replicable examples of what people, businesses, governments and industries are doing to tackle climate change.

Villagers like German Doley and Noor Mohammed are happy that the system has benefited immensely.

“On receiving flood warning from upstream areas of the Jiadhal, villagers of Dihiri were able to save livestock and other valuables worth Rs 2 lakh on September 5 last year when a flash flood hit them late in the night,” said German Doley of Dihiri Mising Gaon of Dhemaji.

Noor Mohammed of 1 Borsola Gaon, a member of Karunabari Anchalik Panchayat, Lakhimpur district, said the early warnings in July and September alerted the villagers to prepare for impending floods. “The villagers took advantage of this early information to gather around the embankment in the village, monitor it and took immediate measures to protect and plug the weaker portions which helped in protecting their village,” he said.

David Molden, director-general of ICIMOD, attributed the project’s success to the support received at the local level in India. He expressed hope that the service would be expanded to other Hindu Kush Himalayan countries to disseminate flood information to the most vulnerable communities.

Das said ICIMOD and Aaranyak have plans to request the state and local governance agencies to mainstream these practices into the regular disaster mitigation activities in both the districts. “We are hopeful that the state government and non-government agencies will come on board with them and help in up scaling and out scaling this practice so that larger populations all over Assam in acutely flash flood prone areas can benefit from this service,” he said.