Reinforcing Community Resilience through Lead Flood Forecasting in Bangladesh

Reported by: S.H.M. Fakhruddin, Science Committee Member, IRDR

The Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (RIMES) in collaboration with “Strengthening Household Abilities to Responds to Development Opportunity” project or SHOUHARDO-II of CARE Bangladesh and USAID provided technical support to operationalize a 10-day flood forecast system in Bangladesh, a unique project of Flood Forecasting and Warning Center (FFWC) of Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB). The project initially started in 2000, two years after the country experienced massive flood in 1998, in order to establish a longer lead in flood forecasting system using local data. FFWC of BWDB has proven their leadership in the region to operationalize an end-to-end early warning system in the region.

Evolving of long lead flood forecasting system in Bangladesh.
Evolving of long lead flood forecasting system in Bangladesh.

It has been recognized that advance information on flood could help minimize the adverse effects associated with it including the management of uncertainties associated with climate variability. The recent advancements in long lead flood prediction promise huge benefits for country such as Bangladesh wherein floods are registered as recurring events brought about by excessive rainfall and discharge into the Bangladesh delta, mainly from the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, as well as retardation of outflow into the Bay of Bengal from high sea levels.

To run the hydrological model, hydrological stream flow data at the borders of the country, as well as satellite data and derived precipitation products from NASA and NOAA were collected. The lumped and semi-distributed hydrological models were used in the multi-model discharge forecasting. These data used as flood early warning was disseminated in the SHOUHARDO-II pilot areas (17 locations) through daily mobile messages, emails (e.g. forecast outlook and bulletin using Bangla and English languages) and uploaded in the FFWC website. Two way communication between RIMES-FFWC and regional staff of CARE-Bangladesh and LGIs were maintained from the advent of flood to ensure timely early warning.

2014 Forecasts Applications and Benefits to the Community

The disasters volunteers who were trained under SHOUHARDO-II played the role of disseminating the flood early warning in the communities especially in remote areas. In places where the river was expected to flow above the danger levels, the vulnerable populations were moved to safer places, giving them enough time to save their properties, store food and drinking water for about 15 days. Consequently, the community was able to secure their livestock, homestead vegetables, firewood and other essential things, which also helped the local government plan for alternative livelihood options for the affected community after the flooding.

In previous years when the country experienced floods, there was substantial damage of T-Aman paddies since the standing crops were inundated under water for 10-12 days. Based on the 1-10 day forecasts, people were able to save the seedbeds after planting the crops in safer areas. This was also true for farmers in Kurigram who experienced loss of vegetable fields in previous floods but has now used the forecasts information to save their farm from being washed away. Apart from the direct benefits of the early warning system, it has been reported that this information was also helpful to the government administrations and NGOs for them to assess the severity and allow sufficient time for response activities like relief distribution.

A more comprehensive assessment is undergoing to access the economic benefits of early warning system. Based on last 2007 and 2008 floods, an assessment was conducted on the benefits of 1-10 days early warning system. One analysis concluded that approximately US$40 was saved for every dollar invested in the flood forecasting and warning system.

The increased understanding of probabilistic long lead flood forecasting is extremely valuable for disaster risk management. In order to receive value-added benefits from the flood information, the requirements of different users need to be considered carefully. Moreover, the accuracy and lead- time of forecast is very important for a country like Bangladesh, which is a lower riparian country of three major river systems and drains huge run-off from  large catchment areas.

S.H.M. Fakhruddin, IRDR Science Committee Member, is involved in the 10-day flood forecast project in Bangladesh. Fakhruddin is a hydrologist by training, and have 13 years working experiences in water engineering, climate and disaster risk management. His key areas of expertise are hydrological modeling, early warning system, climate-proofing infrastructure and disaster risk reduction engineering. Read more of  Fakhruddin in his blog

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