Thursday, July 14, 2011

Forecasting system to help Pakistan manage floods

Megan Rowling in AlertNet): A two-year project to upgrade Pakistan's flood forecasting and early warning systems will enable the South Asian nation to cope better as climate change brings more extreme weather, according to a U.N. expert leading the initiative.

The effort to improve Pakistan's disaster preparedness – a partnership between the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and Japan and Pakistan – was launched this week, as the 2011 monsoon season gets underway.

Pakistan was hit by the worst floods in its recorded history last year, triggered by heavy monsoon rains in late July. They killed more than 2,000 people and affected 18 million – more than a tenth of the population. A massive cascade of water swept through the Indus River basin from north to south over a period of several weeks, submerging one-fifth of the country and washing away homes, roads, bridges, crops and livestock. In many areas, warnings were either not issued or did not reach vulnerable populations in time.

The new programme, funded with a $3.5-million grant from Tokyo, will install a flood-forecasting system using satellite-based rainfall data at government agencies, including the Pakistan Meteorological Department. It will also carry out risk mapping of flood plains along the Indus River.

"Floods in Pakistan will become more frequent because of climate-change impacts and changes in land use," said Shahbaz Khan, project leader and head of UNESCO's water and sustainable development section. "This project will help the government, the disaster management authorities and ordinary people manage floods in a more informed way." They will understand better where to build protection dykes, and how to manage floodgates and dams to control floodwaters without losing stored water, he added....

The Indus river flood in Alipur, District, Muzaffar Garh, Pakistan. Shot by Aamir Shahzad, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

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