19–21 June: National training towards operationalizing Bhutan’s national flood information system


National Training on Flood Information Systems and Operation and Maintenance of Hydro-Meteorological Stations was organized by ICIMOD and the Department of Hydro-Meteorological Services (DHMS) under Bhutan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs in Thimphu, Bhutan 19–21 June 2012. The training was conducted as a part of the Finnish government-funded Hindu Kush Himalayan Hydrological Cycle Observation System (HKH-HYCOS) project, which aims to improve regional flood risk management by fostering cooperation and sharing of hydro-met data among Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and Pakistan in real or near real-time through a Regional Flood Information System. 

About 25 DHMS staff members and representatives from various government line agencies, INGOs, and partner institutes participated in the training. The national training built the capacity of DHMS staff to remotely configure and manage stations, troubleshoot problems with hydro-met instruments, as well as validate and present data in different forms and formats. 

Dr Karma Tsering, Director of DHMS-Bhutan, opened the meeting by acknowledging the project’s contributions towards operationalizing the National Flood Information System in Bhutan, including the installation of six hydro-met stations, upgrading of equipment, and building the capacity of station staff, data managers, and IT personnel. "Once fully operational, the National Flood Information System will issue flood forecasts, early warnings, and advisories to communities and sectors that are vulnerable to flash or riverine floods," he said. Mr Chhimi Dorji, HKH-HYCOS Project Manager from DHMS, underscored the project’s relevance, noting that 70 per cent of the settlements in Bhutan are located in river drainage basins. He then presented the project’s progress and future expectations in Bhutan, commenting that while "the testing of real-time data transmission has been successful, Bhutan still doesn't have enough experience in this area, so expects technical backstopping in the meantime”. Dr S.M. Wahid, Senior Hydrologist at ICIMOD, presented the project’s progress over the last decade, and said the future aim should be to "develop the capability to predict floods based on modeling". He pointed out the need to pilot a Regional Flood Watch for the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin using hydrological and hydrodynamic modeling, as well as to build the capacity of national partners to implement flood forecasting systems with increased lead times.

A media briefing after the opening session by Dr S.M. Wahid and Mr Chhimi Dorji resulted in newspaper coverage in Kuensel and a news report on the Bhutan Broadcasting Service Television on 20 June.

Mr Ranjan Shrestha of Real Time Solutions provided training on the hardware installed in six hydro-met and weather monitoring stations in Bhutan, focusing on the data collection platform and its associated instruments (sensors and transducers, data loggers, and transmission systems) as part of the overall digital data transmission system. He also elaborated on various components of the Regional Flood Information System. Dr S.M. Wahid made a presentation about the operation and maintenance of hydro-met stations using standard operating procedures. The presentations were followed by hands-on training on using the compact water bubbler sensor to take readings of the water level and on configuring the data collection platform using software and online tools.

The following day, participants were taken on a field visit to the automatic weather station in Hongtsho where they were familiarized with the station and its equipment, including Pluvio, WXT500, and WMT700. Here they were shown how to connect sensors to data loggers, conduct basic troubleshooting, read charge controller indicators, replace fuses, take readings, and download data. Mr Shrawan Adhikari, Engineer from Real Time Solutions, provided training on things to remember during installation, troubleshooting, and maintenance. He also covered various components of the data management system, including its interfaces and quality control rules, components, and examples. Mr Ranjan Shrestha briefed participants on topics like data generation and transmission, viewing data in different aggregate formats, data validation through quality control, and data storage and visualization.

On the last day, Nira Gurung and Ujol Sherchan, ICIMOD resource persons, facilitated a brainstorming session to help stakeholders – including representatives from DHMS, Bhutan Police, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Disaster Management Committee – come up with activities to raise public awareness in Bhutan about flood risks and enhance levels of preparedness at national and local levels. Together, they produced an action plan for implementation at the national level on the International Day of Disaster Risk Reduction (October 13), as well as at the community level before the onset of the monsoon in 2013.