Flood warnings save lives across boundaries

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Trans-boundary flood early warning systems have the potential to save thousands of lives across Asia.  This example – presented by Practical Action and the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction – shows the potential impact of a warning system between Nepal and India in the Mahakali river basin. 

 Download the poster here 

poster of potential transboundary flood early warning system between nepal and india on mahakali river basinThe context

The Mahakali river is one of the major tributaries of the Ganga river, which flows through china, India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Floods across the Ganga affect millions of people every year. Therefore, a trans-boundary flood early warning system has great potential to save lives, livelihoods and assets.

The Mahakali basin: a snapshot

  • Catchment area: 15,260 sq.km (65% India, 35% Nepal)
  • Length: 223 km in Nepal, 323.5 km in India
  • Max recorded flood: 15,430 m3/sec in June 2013

Creating the foundation of a transboundary flood early warning system

  • There is already a good network of hydrological and meteorological monitoring stations in the Mahakali basin in both India and Nepal – but most are manually operated. These stations should be upgraded to monitor water levels and rainfall automatically in real-time
  • Information from these monitoring stations needs to be connected across the Nepal-India border to provide warnings to downstream communities. This will require extensive data sharing and a well-defined mechanism for communication between the governments of the two countries at different levels.
  • Communities living near the border could help to disseminate and communicate warning messages in a bottom-up system that would work in harmony with top-down warnings from government level. This would help reduce losses for those living downstream, but would require communities to be organised, trained and informed.
  • Three strategic locations (Tigram station, Kalakot station and Banbasa Paliakalan station) have been chosen for immediate intervention to set up flood early warning systems
  • Capacity development and training is require at various levels. From community volunteers to read gauge readers, up to the technicians responsible for flood forecasting.

Making the system sustainable

To be effective, flood information needs to be shared across the border consistently and systematically. Currently, both barriers and opportunities to this exchange exist.

  • The sensitivities of information sharing needs to be assessed fully. Most government staff currently avoid sharing because of these sensitivities, so efforts will need to be made to dispel these notions.
  • Bilateral and multilateral agreements and arrangements need to be made to share information between the two countries consistently.
  • There is a potential to link existing stand-alone early warning systems into a network by working with border communities. This could be the starting point for government collaboration.

Find out more

This experience was presented at the Trans-border Flood Early Warning System for Last Mile Connectivity to Enhance SFDRR Target side event at the AMCDRR.

Read the key messages of this side event

Read the side event leaflet 

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