Why planning for floods and droughts?
The Asia-Pacific region has recently experienced some of the most damaging weather- and climate-related disasters, with alarming consequences for human welfare. Only in the last 10 years, it is estimated that 700 million people have died and 1.7 billion have been affected due to serious storms, floods and heatwaves. Deadly flood waters have also cost the region about 1.4 trillion US dollars.
In 2011 Thailand was hit by unprecedented monsoon rains that caused the most devastating flooding in the past five decades. 13.6 million people were affected, and estimated economic damages and losses amounted to 45.7 billion US dollars.
Now Thailand is experiencing the worst drought in decades that is compromising the country’s water reserves. The impact on agricultural production and allied economic activities is already evident –farmers have been urged not to plant a second crop for fears that water will be insufficient for irrigation and human consumption. As observers warn of ever stronger weather events triggered by El Niño, Thailand’s drought is expected to become more severe and drag on to 2016.
For countries like Thailand -particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming-, these events put social and economic development in great peril. It is therefore imperative that governments are equipped with better planning and preparedness mechanisms to floods and droughts to support policy decisions and investment.
To contribute to improving and stimulating the use of information about floods, droughts and future scenarios into planning across scales, from basins to water utilities,the International Water Association (IWA) and DHI in partnership with CapNet and the Hydro and Agro Informatics Institute (HAII) will hold the Flood and Drought Symposium, on November 23rd, 2015, at the United Nations Convention Centre.
The Symposium will be opened by Dr. Pichet Durongkaveroj, Minister of Science and Technology, who will discuss how to achieve improved planning for flood and drought management through informed decision making, including the use of technical tools. There will also be a showcase of international case studies from Japan, Taiwan and Australia, as well as a panel discussion with key players of the dry season planning committee.
The event is part of the Flood and Drought Management Tools (FDMT) project that aims at enabling better informed responses to extreme events such as floods and droughts. The project is developing a computer software-based decision support system (DSS) which has tools to support planning from the transboundary basin to water utility level.The system is being designed to access and use global data sets, which can be used to perform basic planning tasks, even if the availability of local data is limited.
The first set of tools are focusing on drought and will allow users to evaluate the impact of drought, provide early warning of drought onset, determine drought severity and spatial extent, and convey information for decision making (in the form of maps). These tools are being tested in the Chao Phraya, Thailand, and will be further developed and disseminated within the other pilot basins (Lake Victoria and Volta) in 2016.
About the project
The Flood and Drought Management Tools (FDMT) project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), International Waters (IW) and implemented by UNEP, with the International Water Association (IWA) and DHI as the executing agencies. The project is being implemented from 2014 - 2018, and 3 pilot basins (Volta, Lake Victoria and Chao Phraya) have been identified for development and testing of the DSS.