The Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region is prone to natural hazards like floods, glacier lake outbursts, droughts, landslides, avalanches, and earthquakes. The unstable geological conditions and steep terrain, combined with climate change and frequent extreme weather conditions, pose myriad challenges for the communities in the region. The frequent occurrence of flash floods, one of the major natural disasters in the HKH region, threatens lives, livelihoods and infrastructure, both in the mountains and downstream. Vulnerable groups like the poor, women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities often suffer the worst impacts.
Since its establishment in 1983, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has explored different ways to reduce the risk of natural hazards and the physical and social vulnerability of the people in the HKH region. The establishment of a regional flood information system (HKH-HYCOS) has allowed for a timely exchange of flood data and information for mitigating flood vulnerability. A wide range of information is produced to support multi-scale disaster risk reduction (DRR) systems using satellite rainfall estimation, satellite altimetry-based flood early warning systems, flood inundation modelling, and model-derived hydrological information. The Community Based Flood Early Warning System (CBFEWS), enabled by wireless technology, is one of the promising interventions for minimizing flood risk at the community level. This initiative received the Momentum for Change 2014 Lighthouse Activity Award instituted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Considering the need of the stakeholders, the wireless CBFEWS technology has been further enhanced by the use of non-contact water-level sensor (ultrasonic) and telemetry-based systems to detect and measure the water level in the river and upload measurements to the internet cloud. This enhanced the CBFEWS with telemetry has been tested in the field with much success and is being replicated in other river tributaries too.
We hope that this manual will meaningfully contribute towards strengthening the capacity of the vulnerable communities by providing them with early flood warning and thus help reduce flood risk, and save lives and livelihoods.
David Molden, PhD Director General, ICIMOD