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To enhance the resilience of 45 vulnerable communities in the Indian Himalayan region to flood hazards, a collaboration encompassing ICIMOD, Aranyak and SEE created the Community-Based Flood Early-Warning System. The information and communications technology (ICT) enabled system uses a flood sensor attached to the transmitter to detect rising water levels. When the water reaches a critical level, a signal is wirelessly transmitted to the receiver. The flood warning is then disseminated via mobile phones to appropriate agencies and vulnerable communities downstream. Critical flood levels are set with the help of local communities.


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Fast facts:

  • In 2013, five community-based flood early warning systems were installed in the Singora and Jiadhal rivers.
  • The system installed in the Singora River sends flood warning signals to 20 flood-vulnerable communities downstream; 25 flood-vulnerable communities receive warnings from the system installed in the Jiadhal River.
  • During the flood season of 2013, the flood early-warning system installed in the Jiadhal River successfully informed community members of pending floods, helping them save assets and lives.

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ImageThe problem

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region is one of the most dynamic and complex mountain systems in the world. It is also extremely fragile and sensitive to the effects of climate change. Climate change is gradually increasing the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events and natural hazards in the region, which has led to higher levels of risk and uncertainty.  

One of the effects of climate change is the formation of meltwater lakes on the lower sections of glaciers in the Himalaya region. Because such lakes are inherently unstable and subject to catastrophic flood surges they are potential sources of danger to people and property in the valleys below them.

The solution

The Community-based Flood Early-warning System is an ICT-enabled system to detect and respond to flood emergencies that are prepared and managed by the communities. The wireless system manages flood or flash flood risk by providing early warnings to downstream communities and enhances cooperation between upstream and downstream communities in the sharing of flood information.

This ICT solution consists of two units – a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter is installed along the riverbank, and the receiver is installed at a house near the river. A flood sensor attached to the transmitter detects rising water levels. When the water reaches a critical level, a signal is wirelessly transmitted to the receiver. The flood warning is then disseminated via mobile phone to concerned agencies and vulnerable communities downstream. Critical flood levels are set with the help of the local community. 


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Helping people

The system saves lives and property by providing lead time for downstream communities to prepare and respond to the threat of flash floods. It also enhances cooperation between upstream and downstream communities in sharing flood information.

During the 2013 flood season, the Community-based Flood Early-warning System installed in the Jiadhal River successfully informed community members in Dihiri of pending floods, helping them save assets, including cattle and pigs, worth approximately USD 3,300.

Spillover effect

The Community-based Flood Early-warning System project representatives are working with the local government authority to scale up the initiative. This collaboration involves creating district flood management plans and building the capacity of communities to control the system’s equipment. Once the initiative is replicated in other flood-prone areas in the district, the communities can take ownership of the system to sustain it for the long term.

Project representatives have been approached institutions in other countries to help replicate the system in flood-vulnerable areas. In Afghanistan, initial discussions have been held and a partner has been to initiate the process. In Nepal, ICIMOD's initiative on Koshi River Basin Management has included the Community-based Flood Early-warning System methodology in its planning and initial discussions are continuing.


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