Flood and Drought Management Tools

Amazonian communities adapting to climate change in the MAP transboundary region

The backbone of the MAP tri-national region (Madre de Dios, Peru, Acre, Brazil and Pando, Bolivia), the Acre River transboundary basin covers almost 36,000 km2 and is home to more than 900,000 inhabitants in Southwest Amazon basin. Its tropical rainforest ecosystem is used for diverse economic activities, such as timber extraction, Brazil nuts, precious metals, oil, rice and corn crops, cattle ranching and fishing.

Over the past decades, the basin has been suffering extreme hydro-climatic events, mainly huge floods and prolonged droughts, affecting the local communities, economies, and ecosystems. In this context and building on the existing local MAP initiative, the GEF Amazon Project: Water Resources and Climate Change supported the implementation of a pilot project which assessed the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of local water resources and implemented a tri-national Early Warning System for the border MAP region along with providing training, information and data sharing, technology sharing and facilitating communication and cooperation across the borders.

More than 40 governmental representatives and 20 civil society institutions from the three countries participated in the initiative, contributing their experience and knowledge to define specific working lines about adaptation to risk and technical parameters in response to climate change.

According to Water Governance expert Elsa Mendoza, who coordinated the pilot project, managing risks and protecting local populations and rainforests is crucial to adaptation. “Reducing the risk of disasters by means of early warning systems and involving communities in monitoring extreme hydro-climatic events are ways of strengthening affected populations,” said Mendoza.

The project supported the implementation of an Early Warning System (EWS), which helped improve the local governance capacity of Madre de Dios, Acre, and Pando. The system anticipates actions for prevention and mitigation of natural and man-made disasters in the region, and monitors and analyzes environmental risk alerts.

For the EWS, the three countries agreed to use the TerraMA2 development platform for monitoring, analysis and alert systems, developed and provided free of charge by the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE / National Institute of Space Research) of Brazil, which already operated in the State of Acre (Brazil). The use of the same software platform along with the harmonized databases allowed for coordinated actions, alerts and responses between the emergency response units across the borders.

The platform generates maps with real-time alert indexes for floods, forest fires and other natural disasters. “The alerts are sorted by colors: blue means ‘observation’; yellow means ‘attention’; orange means ‘alert’; and red means ‘high alert’,” explains the main consultant. “At high alert, the indexes go through national technicians, by radio and other communication systems in the region, to relevant government institutions, so that they can take action in loco.

The project activities also included: technical courses on TerraMA2 platform and Geographic Information Systems - GIS; analysis of the vulnerability and ecological risk of the transboundary MAP region, using the Ecological Risk Index (ERI); validation of information produced in the GIS environment through a 185 km field trip along the Acre River, with participation by representatives of the three countries, and a tri-national meeting.

The project had an immediate impact, as the Early Warning System was successfully used in the context of the historic flood that raised the level of the Acre River to more than 18 meters in February of 2015, thus benefiting more than 80,000 people in the MAP region.

In fact, the System is already being replicated at the national level in Peru. The National Water Authority of Peru reported the installation of Systems for Warning and Hydrological Monitoring at the national level, using the TerraMA2 technological platform adopted in the framework of the cooperation processes promoted by the GEF Amazon Project.

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