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Disseminating and communicating risk information to the concerned communities and authorities is an integral part of the CBFEWS. When the flood signal is detected upstream, it needs to be disseminated instantly so that people can prepare and respond to it. Warning information must be clear and brief. The major components of information dissemination are presented below.
Early warning information comes from individuals or organizations that generate a risk message and send it to the concerned authorities and vulnerable communities. The caretaker is the main source of information. The information generated by the instrument must be verified by the caretaker to generate correct flood early warning information. Every bit of information delivered from the source needs to be reliable, timely, and consistent. The source person needs to correctly type out the trigger message for the alarm units. Furthermore, the caretaker should formulate a clear and standardized warning message so that the intended recipients can fully understand the message and act accordingly.
Warning recipients are nodal persons downstream who are part of the communication network. These nodal persons receive the warning message from different channels (e.g. directly from the source, such as a caretaker or other concerned authorities) and instantly communicate it to at-risk households. There may be various levels of recipients depending on the distance of the vulnerable settlement along the river and the urgency of delivering the information.
The warning message from the source to the intended recipients could be textual (SMS), verbal/audio (siren, telephone, megaphone), or visual (flag, sign). Warning messages should be concise, understandable, consistent, and tailored to the specific needs of the intended recipients. Our CBFEWS has three warning levels that can be interpreted in the following manner:
A communication channel is a network of people created for information dissemination. An efficient and reliable communication network is important for CBFEWS to function properly. A well-drilled communication channel, particularly between upstream (caretakers) and downstream (authorities and communities) actors, is of utmost importance for efficient and timely flow of correct information. Such a channel should be formed at the initial stages of implementing the system through stakeholders’ consultations and meetings with local government officials and influential leaders in the village.
The major actors in the CBFEWS communication network are the caretaker or gauge reader; local disaster management authorities; village/panchayat heads and influential leaders; scientific or relief organizations; the media; and vulnerable communities. Each and every actor should have predefined roles and responsibilities that they should perform before, during, and after the disaster. The major actors and their roles and responsibilities are listed below.
In the absence of a community group that can deal with flood risks, a flood risk management committee can be formed through common consensus. Such a committee can enhance local capacity to withstand flood impacts in an organized way. Flood risk management committees can not only unite the whole community and strengthen their capacity but also provide authority and leadership for dealing with local flood-related issues. The committee can have several sub-committees such as an early warning, communication, and information group; first aid and heath group; evacuation and rescue group; and shelter management and logistics group. The major roles and responsibilities of a flood risk management committee are as follows:
The private sector, Red Cross Society, police, army, influential leaders, and local teachers are other actors involved in disseminating the early warning.
The system still needs to be further customized at the local level and outscaled to many more flood-vulnerable rivers and tributaries. ICIMOD’s work with communities has focused on ensuring continued operation, system maintenance, and community buy-in. Ensuring long-term operation requires financial sustainability, annual maintenance, compensation for caretakers, regular stakeholder meetings, and strong upstream–downstream collaboration.
Promoting ownership of the system among nodal agencies could enhance sustainability and facilitate the system’s full ownership by communities. For this, CBFEWS needs to be included in annual disaster management strategies and upscaled in all flood-prone areas. A network of these instruments would further improve the flood preparedness of communities. The private sector can also contribute to enhancing the technology and improving the instrument’s accessibility.
For more details on CBFEWS
The Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH) make up one of the most dynamic and complex mountain systems in the world. The region is known to be extremely fragile and prone to natural hazards, which are exacerbated by climate change.