GUWAHATI, Nov 27 – Conservation group Aaranyak, in partnership with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, has won the ‘2014 Lighthouse Activity Award’ announced on Tuesday by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at Bonn, Germany for its successful implementation of the ‘Community Based Flood Early Warning System’ (CBFEWS) in the Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts of Assam.
The project is being undertaken as a component of ICIMOD’s Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP) in the Eastern Brahmaputra River Basin (EBRB). Under this, early warnings of floods are disseminated to vulnerable communities living in the catchments of two rivers- Jiadhal in Dhemaji and Singora in Lakhimpur. Floods, especially flash floods in both these rivers create havoc by destroying public infrastructure (like roads, railways), private property and assets (crops, agricultural land, fisheries, houses, livestock) and causing human casualties in the two districts every year during the rainy season. The District Disaster Management Authorities (DDMA) of both the districts are supporting the project by participating in the capacity building and flood information dissemination process.
The CB-FEWS works on the principle of twining of ICT (information, communication & technology) with a social process of networking and information exchange. The electronic instruments consist of a transmitter unit and a receiver unit. The transmitting unit has a flood gauge set up on a river with batteries that run on solar power. The receiver has a control unit installed in a household living on the river bank. The electronic sensors fitted inside the flood gauge at different heights (risk levels) produce alarming sound communicated through a wireless device to the receiver when water rises in the river and touches the flood gauge at those marks.
The flood warnings have been found to be immensely useful to the people living in downstream in saving their lives, especially of children and elderly people and assets such as livestock as well as in monitoring and protecting the embankments. This service has considerably reduced the flood risk of thousands of people living in flood-prone areas of the two rivers.
Communities say most of the flash flood events occur during night time and hit them suddenly and therefore the flood warnings are particularly useful for them in the night time. District Disaster Management officials of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji have acknowledged that these flood warnings have helped them in remaining alert and prepared with manpower and services to deal with the impending floods.
This provision of flood warning was first piloted in the year 2010-2011 by ICIMOD and Aaranyak in the Jiadhal river in Dhemaji. Since then the instrumentation has undergone improvement to make it easy use and maintain. The present set of equipment use wireless device for transmission of signals. ICIMOD is planning to disseminate flood warning messages using mobile phone’s SMS from next year (2015). The GSM-based SMS generation was successfully tested in the two districts this year. The SMSs will be generated automatically as water levels rise up and touch different levels of the flood gauge of the transmitting unit.
ICIMOD and Aaranyak have plans to request State and local governance agencies to mainstream this practice into the regular disaster mitigation activities in the Dhemaji and Lakhimpur districts. Both ICIMOD and Aaranyak are hopeful that the State Government and non-Government agencies will come on board with them and help in up-scaling and out-scaling this practice so that larger population all over Assam in acutely flash-flood prone areas can benefit from this service.