Several countries in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region (HKH) face flood disasters regularly. In particular, the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Meghna, and Indus flood plains are affected by floods every year. This region contains one of the highest concentrations of people in the world, with a high rate of poverty; and population growth has increased the vulnerability to flood disasters. Flooding is a part of the growing spiral of poverty.
Economically disadvantaged people move to the flood-prone lowlands as they lack other options; at the same time they lack the resources to respond to and recover from floods. Flooding poses severe constraints on socio-economic development and investment in agriculture, infrastructure, and industrial production; thus management of floods is vital. The impact of floods must be lessened both to reduce poverty and to save lives.
Building of dams and other river control measures have a role to play in flood mitigation, but one of the most cost-effective means of reducing the impact of floods is the non-structural approach of providing people with sufficient advance warning for them to avoid exposure to the approaching disaster. To forecast floods with any degree of accuracy, timely and reliable hydro-meteorological information is needed from the whole of the river basin.
Since many of the rivers in the HKH-region flow through more than one country, information must be exchanged across national borders. Regional co-operation in hydrological activities and research is an essential prerequisite. An adequate understanding of the hydrological process of the highly energised and fragile environment that is influenced by heavy monsoon rains is extremely important. As yet, however, there is no regional framework for such multilateral exchange, although there are successful examples of agreements for bilateral exchange of data. Particular concern about this was voiced during the 2nd Steering Committee Meeting of the hydrological research network HKH-FRIEND (Flow Regime From International Experimental Network Data, part of UNESCO's International Hydrological Programme) held in April 2000 in Kathmandu.
In response, ICIMOD in collaboration with regional partners and WMO have now started on a long-term project whose final aim is to establish an operational flood information system for the HKH region. As a first step, ICIMOD and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), supported by the US Department of State (Regional Environmental Office of South Asia), US Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance, and DANIDA, organised a high level consultative meeting on 'Developing a Framework for Flood Forecasting and Information Exchange in the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region' in Kathmandu in May 2001. Participants from Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, agreed on an initial Action Plan for Regional Co-operation for Flood Information Exchange.
The meeting recommended the development of a website which is envisaged to be a regional platform for flood information exchange. Hence ICIMOD with consultation with regional partners and WMO has initiated the development of the South Asian Floods (SAF) website.
Other key partners include
- The regional country partners are:
Their Ministries of Water Resources, Departments of Hydrology and Meteorology and Flood Forecasting units will be the lead agencies for this project.
- Some universities of these countries involved in this sector will also be actively involved.
- The principal implementing partner is the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
- the U.S. Department of State of Regional Environmental Office of South Asia
- U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance
- Other international agencies
- U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
- World Bank
- Asian Development Bank (ADB)
- Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), UK
- European members of HKH-FRIEND
- Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA)
- German national committee for the International Hydrological Program (UNESCO)
- Operational Hydrological Program (WMO)
- Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (Thailand)
- Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
- Mekong River Commission (MRC)
- National Hydrological Services (NHS)
- National Meteorological Services (NMS)
- The HKH-FRIEND secretariat, located at ICIMOD, will also be actively involved in the implementation of the project.
The objective of the Project is to promote regional cooperation in sharing of hydro-meteorological information which would lead to the reduction in flood vulnerability by providing timely and reliable warning to save people's lives and property. This will improve the economic condition of the population in this region and help in poverty alleviation.
SAF is possible because of the genuine concern and support of the
- US Dept of State (Regional environmental office for South Asia)
- USAID / US Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA)