Guwahati, Sunday, July 3, 2011
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Community-based flood early warning project
Staff Reporter
 GUWAHATI, July 2 – A community-based flood early warning system in a flood-prone area of Assam could bring relief to scores of people. The project, with an aim to reduce flood risk through training and awareness, is being implemented by a team from the environmental group Aaranyak with support from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

The project includes Flood Early Warning Systems that can be operated and maintained by communities in four highly flood prone villages of Dhemaji district. Following their installation, the system has been successful in warning villages on at least three occasions helping save precious lives and property, said PJ Das, who heads the Head of Water, Climate and Hazard Programme of Aaranyak.

Das mentioned that the devices were able to sound warnings about the rise in the river’s water level and thus enable the villagers to prepare for the oncoming floods. “Once a flood warning is set off in a village at any risk level, information about the water level rising in the upstream can be disseminated from that village through mobile phones to selected individuals in downstream settlements,” he said.

Villagers who have become acquainted with the system have noted that if warnings can be propagated to downstream areas after the sounding of the alarm in an upstream village, a ‘lead time’ of about 90 minutes can be available for residents in downstream areas.

After successful use of the system last year, the instruments were withdrawn in November 2010, but reinstalled in May this year. The unit at Dihiri has already given flood warning in the morning of June 4 when there was an alarming rise in the river’s water level.

Das said that the system has been demonstrated to communities and government officials, and his team wants it to be replicated by the State government and NGOS on a wider scale. It is a tested and proven system, and benefits easily outweigh the cost of equipment and installation, he said.

To consolidate the adaptation and mitigation efforts, Aaranyak has also organised awareness meets in the flood-prone areas and sensitized local communities about dealing with flash floods.

A knowledge sharing workshop on climate induced water hazards in the Brahmaputra basin in Northeast India was also organised where among others flood affected people from Dhemaji also took part.

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