Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Pakistan: Communities gear up to fight floods

International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development

At least four communities across the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) are better prepared to fight floods this year. Floods and flash floods in the Hindu Kush Himalaya cause considerable loss of lives and property in downstream communities, particularly during the monsoon. To address such flood risks and to enhance the resilience of vulnerable communities, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and its partner organizations have set up community-based flood early warning systems (CBFEWS). A CBFEWS is an integrated system of tools and plans to detect and respond to flood emergencies that is managed by communities. ICIMOD has developed a people-centric CBFEWS that emphasizes four essential elements of early warning systems: risk knowledge and scoping, community based monitoring and early warning, dissemination and communication, and response capability and resilience. 

ICIMOD provided flood monitoring devices and established CBFEWS with its partners in Assam and Bihar in India; Mahottari, Nepal, Baghlan in Afghanistan, and Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan. ICIMOD will establish another CBFEWS in the Kabul River basin in Afghanistan and provide technical support to Oxfam Nepal to establish a CBFEWS in the Mahakali River basin of Nepal. 

ICIMOD conducted its third regional hands-on training on CBFEWS from 14 to 18 May 2018. Eighteen participants comprising of caretakers, flood warning recipients, representatives from local government and non-governmental organizations, and members of CBFEWS implementing communities and organizations were trained on installing and using the flood monitoring device and establishing CBFEWS. The course provided technical know-how as well as conceptual knowledge about planning for CBFEWS holistically and concentrated on the use of a flood early warning device designed by ICIMOD with support from Sustainable Eco Engineering (SEE). The device has seen significant upgrades since its first introduction in 2008. The device started as a simple wired device that triggered an alarm during high flows; it now features a telemetric system that reads, records, and transmits water level data in real time. The ability to provide lead time has also increased significantly as a result.

The CBFEWS activity in Afghanistan is supported by the Government of Australia under the Sustainable Water Resource Management in Afghanistan (SWaRMA) programme. In Nepal and India, it is supported by the Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP) for South Asia under the Koshi Basin Programme, and in Pakistan, under the Indus Basin Initiative. The governments of Norway and Sweden also provide support in India (Assam) through the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme. 

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