Kathmandu :The UNFCCC's Momentum for Change has announced the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) as one of the winners of the 2014 Lighthouse Activity Awards for its work on Community Based Flood Early Warning System in the Eastern Brahmaputra River Basin, India.
The Lighthouse Activity Awards spearheaded by the UN Climate Change secretariat, recognizes innovative and transformative solutions that address both climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges. For 2014, the initiative recognized climate change action in four key areas, one of which was information and communication technology (ICT) solutions.
ICIMOD's Community Based Flood Early Warning System (CB-FEWS) is a shining example of how innovative use of ICT can help build communities' capacity to cope with the effects of flash floods. This remarkable initiative is being implemented in the two districts of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji of Assam, India in partnership with Aaranyak, India and Sustainable Eco Engineering (SEE), Nepal under ICIMOD's Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP).
Neera Shrestha Pradhan, Water and Adaptation Specialist at ICIMOD, described CB-FEWS as "people-centric, low cost and innovative use of ICT tool through which upstream communities provide almost real time flood information to downstream vulnerable communities, giving them sufficient lead time for preparedness." A notable feature of the system is that it relies on the social process of networking and information exchange between community members.
"ICIMOD promotes simple, affordable and easy-to-maintain technologies like these which are key to the success of climate change adaptation in vulnerable areas," said Nand Kishor Agrawal, Initiative Coordinator for HICAP.
The CB-FEWS has proved valuable to thousands of people living in flood prone areas in the Eastern Brahmaputra River Basin in Northeast India. The early flood warnings have helped them monitor and protect the embankments, and prevented loss of life and property resulting from floods, which is a common occurrence in the areas.
According to Partha J Das, Programme Head of Water, Climate and Hazard (WATCH) Programme, Aaranyak, "In September 2013, the communities in Dihiri saved properties worth almost USD 3000 due to prior flood information received from CB-FEWS."
In addition, the service has enhanced the communication between upstream and downstream communities, and raised their alertness to the impending floods.
Dr David Molden, Director General of ICIMOD, attributed the project's success to the support received at the local level. "We greatly appreciate the support of the concerned District Disaster Management Authorities in Assam, Aaranyak, SEE and the local communities in piloting CB-FEWS project in India," he said. He expressed hope that the service would be expanded to other Hindu Kush Himalayan countries to disseminate flood information to the most vulnerable communities.
"These activities are assisting communities, cities, businesses, governments and institutions to move towards a low-carbon, highly resilient future," UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said. "The 2014 Lighthouse Activities show that action on climate change is not only possible but that it is already happening – injecting confidence into the global movement towards a universal climate change agreement in Paris in 2015."
On behalf of Aaranyak, SEE and ICIMOD, Dr David Molden and Neera Shrestha Pradhan from ICIMOD will receive the award on 11 December 2014 at the COP-20 in Lima, Peru in the presence of representatives from Aaranyak and District Disaster Management Authority-Lakhimpur, Assam, India.