Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Colombian river basin passes the test of El Niño and La Niña

Constanza Vieira  in IPS via Tierramérica: Patricia Gómez, an engineer, is leading a training workshop for a group of 11 men at the fire station in Neiva, the capital of the department of Huila in southwest Colombia....  Gómez is demonstrating the Integrated Hydrometeorological Monitoring and Early Warning Network for the Las Ceibas River Basin (RIMAC), a high-technology system for disaster prevention in real time.

The Las Ceibas River is both a source of life and a source of disasters.  The river is the sole source of water for the city of Neiva. But deforestation and slash-and-burn agriculture, a traditional peasant farming practice that wreaks havoc on the Andean mountain slopes, have led ever larger amounts of sediments to run into the river, deteriorating water quality and increasing the risk of landslides.

When the river overflows, it floods the poor neighbourhoods of the city, located on the riverbanks. At the training workshop on RIMAC, Gómez shows the firefighters how the effects of the heavy rains in the city earlier in the day are reflected on screen.

A table of indicators, produced with data sent every five minutes by sensors installed at different points along the river basin, shows that the rainstorm resulted in the highest water level in the river so far this month: 2.36 metres.

The RIMAC network currently encompasses eight monitoring stations, but will eventually extend to 22, as part of an inter-institutional project coordinated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) that has been underway for four and a half years....

The Las Ceibas River passing through Neiva, shot by Seamless20, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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