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9 Sep 2016 | HICAP

Outscaling community-based flood early warning systems in Assam

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Aaranyak and ICIMOD representatives demonstrate CBFEWS to meeting participants. Photo courtesy of Aaranyak

Every year, monsoon precipitation results in floods of various magnitudes inundating large areas of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Indus basins in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region. Flooding results in loss of lives and livelihoods displacing millions of people, and damages infrastructure worth billions of dollars annually. Floods, flash floods, river-bank erosion, and sand casting are the most frequent water-induced hazards in the eastern Brahmaputra basin in Assam, India. Poverty, lack of infrastructure, poor accessibility and livelihood uncertainties, and the underlying climate dynamics pose serious challenges in reducing flood vulnerability and mitigating its impacts.

To share knowledge about flood early warning systems at regional and local levels and to explore opportunities to scale out good practices with relevant stakeholders, we collaborated with the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) to organize a ‘Stakeholders’ meeting on community-based flood early warning systems (CBFEWS)’ 1 August 2016 at the ASDMA office in Guwahati, India.

Dipak Kumar Sharma, CEO, ASDMA presided over the meeting along with Nandita Hazarika, Joint Secretary and Senior Programme Officer, ASDMA. Other representatives from ASDMA, Department of Public Health Engineering, Water Resources Department, Social Welfare Department, Panchayat and Rural Development Department. Local NGOs, and community organisations like , Gramya Vikash Mancha (GVM)–Nalbari, Social Action For Appropriate Transformation and Advancement in Rural Areas (SATRA), Darrang and Inter Agency Group also attended the daylong meeting.

Our ICIMOD colleagues and representatives from NESAC shared their experiences and knowledge on flood early warning systems. ICIMOD and Aaranyak also conducted a live demonstration of the CBFEWS for participants, a system which provides vulnerable downstream communities with sufficient lead time to save lives and livelihoods.

Realising the CBFEWS’s significance in flood-prone Assam, the Assam State Disaster Management Authority has taken the lead to install CBFEWS in other flash flood prone tributaries in Assam. The authority is also identifying academic institutions for further research in this matter.

ICIMOD’s experience with CBFEWS has come a long way

In 2013, ICIMOD and Aaranyak installed (CBFEWS) in the Jiadhal and Singora rivers in Assam, India under the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP). During the floods, the CBFEWS in the Jiadhal River warned community members in Dihiri of the approaching floods, helping them save assets, including livestock valued at USD 3,300. The following year at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties 20/CMP10, UNFCCC awarded ICIMOD and Aaranyak the Momentum for Change 2014 Lighthouse Activity Award under the ICT Solutions category. ICIMOD, together with the local government and partners, have continued to outscale CBFEWS along the Koshi River in Nepal and Dushi River in Afghanistan.

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