Krishna Basaula and Laxmi Awasthi
The number and severity of disasters are rising as the climate undergoes changes, and as world’s population continue to increase. Disasters threaten a segment of the population which is considered more vulnerable, largely because they are both highly sensitive to hazards and have limited capacities to cope with the resulting impacts. Disasters disproportionately affect those with the lower socioeconomic status – including those suffering from poverty, as well as minorities and discriminated groups. In many developing countries, women’s lower socioeconomic status – which implies an unequal access to information.
Practical Action is implementing “Strengthening end to end (E2E) flood Early Warning System (EWS) and Preparedness for Effective Disaster Reduction and Resilience in Nepal Project” in upper catchment of West Rapti River basin and Babai River basin in Dang district and Sotkhola (Surkhet) in partnership with Nepal Red Cross Society’s respective district chapters in Dang and Surkhet funding support of United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Office for Foreign Disaster Assistant (OFDA) from September 2018 for two years. The project works for those communities who are more vulnerable to flood and have less access to information in the upper catchment of West Rapti and Babai basin in Dang and Sotkhola in Surkhet district in Nepal. The project is providing weather forecast and disseminating flood early warning information to the most vulnerable communities in coordination with Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), District Emergency Operation Centre (DEOC), Local Emergency Operation Centre (LEOC), Community Disaster Management Committee (CDMC) and various task forces under the CDMC.
The program supports local governments to form Local Disaster Management Committee (LDMC), CDMC and task forces in the communities at local level while and also supporting DHM to upgrade the manual hydro-meteorological stations to telemetric and connect them to LDMC, CDMC and task forces capacitate them in the concept of Community based early warning system (CBEWS) and Common Alerting Protocol (CAP). To disseminate the real time rainfall and water level data to the downstream community of west Rapti and Babai basin; and provide weather forecast information program has developed a communication channel for West Rapti Basin, and Babai basin by connecting communities directly to DHM and weather and climate stations(data observers), DEOC/district disaster management committee (DDMC), LDMC/LEOC, CDMC, Task forces, secure forces (Armed Police Force (APF), Nepal Army (NA) and Nepal Police (NP), Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) district and subchapter, local FMs radios and private sector in respective area.
What makes the flood communication successful and inclusive?
Communication channel has been successful in disseminating weather and flood forecast information and real time rainfall and water level information dissemination to the local governments and vulnerable communities for their response to early warning ; the communication channel is also used for the delivering the message about the flood situation in the community to receive support from LDMC/LEOC, DDMC/DEOC and security forces NRCS subchapters, which is more supportive for timely response in case of flood. This includes the contact number of the all stakeholders to take and to disseminate the information from community and to stakeholders. Communication channel thus developed is shared with DDMC for approval and then distributed to the community and stakeholders. The main objective of this channel is reducing the risk of flood disaster by providing the forecast information in time and receiving the information about disaster event from community for effective response.
This communication channel is easy to understand of its use for everyone. Arrow in the channel clearly indicate whether communication is one way or two-way and same for information sharing. District Emergency operation center (DEOC) communicates the risk situation to communities and local governments for their preparedness and stay at alert. Likewise, DEOC shares situation update of district to province emergency operation center (PEOC) and national emergency operation center (NEOC).
Challenges and way ahead
There is limited capacity of local government to understand Early Warning System (EWS) and invest for its sustainability and replication in other river basins. Regarding the flood risk information and early warning there is no mechanism to ensure that people receive, understand and response to the warning alert. The Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) basin offices have no clear link with municipal and provincial governments to strengthen and sustain flood EWS and reach the end users. The general rainfall warning threshold (60mm in 1hr, 80mm in 3hr, 100mm in 6hr, 120mm in 12hr and 140mm in 24hr) do not cater the needs of districts and watersheds for appropriate risk warning and communication.
In this backdrop, the local and provincial governments are in need of technical support in improving the overall EWS governance. This include support to prepare policy and operational documents to sustain and own the EWS; facilitating operation of EOCs; support in the development of Disaster Information Management System (DIMS); and playing an intermediary role to tailor the flood and weather forecast information actionable and useful in the local context. Considering the gaps and immediate needs in the province and at the local level Practical Action is exploring the additional resources to consolidate results achieved so far and sustain our efforts on EWS in Nepal.