Regional Flood Information System (RFIS)

Data Acquisition, Transmission, and Capacity Building

The wide variation in capacities of partner countries with regard to flood forecasting and management offers a tremendous opportunity for bilateral and regional technical cooperation. The project initially includes about 28 hydrometeorological stations, most of which require upgrading, selected in consultation with partner countries. When the RFIS is fully operational, real- or near-real-time river level, rainfall, and related data from these selected hydrometeorological stations will be measured using instruments meeting international standards produced by Ott Hydromet, Vaisala, Hydro Services Private Limited, and Stevens. The data will be transmitted through direct telemetry (GSM/CDMA or satellite) to the national hydrometeorological services of partner countries. It will be delivered simultaneously to the regional server at ICIMOD for development of regional flood outlooks. About 216 Global Telecommunications System (GTS) stations under the auspices of WMO in the HKH will also contribute synoptic data to the RFIS. It is envisaged that more and more hydrometeorological stations will be added to the HKH-HYCOS network over time in order to improve both the accuracy and lead times of flood forecasts.

RFIS will essentially comprise effective data and information transmission and reception capabilities, adequate national and regional databases and data management systems, and the requisite technical expertise. The regional and national flood information systems are visualised as Web-based systems. It is planned that satellite rainfall estimation products, derived hydrology flow products from other global data-sharing networks, and Sentinel Asia satellite products will be integrated into the RFIS. Field technicians will be trained in operation and maintenance. Training and regional exposure visits are also envisaged for administrators and national database managers in partner countries. Training will be jointly coordinated by ICIMOD and WMO. Training sessions, as well as awareness-raising drives in local communities, will address the social dimensions of flood disaster preparedness, including gender aspects.

Need for a Regional Flood Information System

It is widely recognised that floods in the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna basins cannot be totally controlled; therefore, the limited resources are better directed towards reducing flood vulnerability and mitigating flood impact through improved flood management. This calls for meaningful regional cooperation of the countries sharing the basins, namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Nepal, India, and Pakistan. The bilateral river treaties and data sharing arrangements that are currently in force among these countries, although necessary, are not sufficient to avert flood catastrophes of transboundary scale. 

Therefore, on both humanitarian and development grounds, ICIMOD’s regional member countries considered it timely to adopt a regional approach – for example, a mechanism for multilateral exchange of flood data and information – to alert people living in flood-prone areas with sufficient lead times to evacuate. This, in a nutshell, is the rationale behind the creation of the HKH Hydrological Cycle Observation System (HKH-HYCOS).

Making flood information travel faster than flood water.