Planning Meeting on the Establishment of Flash Flood Guidance System in South Asia

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A planning meeting for the establishment of a regional Flash Flood Guidance (FFG) System in South Asia (SAsia-FFG) was held at ICIMOD Headquarters in Kathmandu 26–28 November. The meeting was organized by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in cooperation with ICIMOD; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service; the Hydrologic Research Centre (HRC) in California, US; and the principal development partner, United States Agency for International Development/Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA). The SAsia-FFG is part of the WMO’s Flood Forecasting Initiative. From the region, the planning meeting was attended by representatives of hydro-meteorological services from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan voiced its interest in participating in the planned project and China participated as observer.

Each country provided in-depth presentations on the current situation of national services related to hydro-meteorological forecasting capabilities, practices, and development plans. HRC provided the technical concept of the Flash Flood Guidance System, which uses satellite-based rainfall estimates, soil moisture estimates, and real-time meteorological stations reporting as inputs to the FFG-model to produce a variety of application-oriented products that can be updated every three hours for the entire region. There was consensus among participants that the implementation of the SAsia-FFG will significantly improve flash flood-induced disaster risk reduction, thereby saving lives and livelihoods. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) and Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) expressed readiness to jointly host the Regional Centre of the SAsia-FFG. ICIMOD will facilitate the project at the regional level through cooperation with partners in the areas of knowledge dissemination, transfer of technology, and capacity building to minimize the adverse impacts of water-induced disasters in the region, including flash floods.

South Asia is particularly vulnerable to floods and landslides, and climate change is further increasing the magnitude and the frequency of extreme weather events.  Flash floods account for most of the lives lost in flood events, have very short lead times and can occur at any place at any time, and adversely affect the lives and infrastructure of the region. There is an urgent need to prioritize efforts to improve the detection and forecasting of flash floods threats to enable national authorities to undertake appropriate measures to safeguard at-risk populations. The SAsia-FFG complements several other ICIMOD initiatives including capacity building in flash flood risk management, application of satellite-based rainfall estimates, and, in partnership with WMO, the establishment of a regional flood information system (HKH-HYCOS) as part of WMO’s global WHYCOS programme.