J&K ties up with UK Space Agency programme for flood forecasting

In order to establish “an impact-based flood forecasting”, the Jammu and Kashmir government has joined hands with a programme of the Space Agency of the United Kingdom which will help to mitigate effects of floods and ensure better preparedness. This will be the first such advanced mechanism which will help in predicting depth and extent of inundation during floods.

Officials said India has numerous flood forecasting systems that provide predictions of water levels and flows but not their impact in terms of loss of life, damage to buildings, critical infrastructure and agriculture which this project will help to achieve.

The joint project, which is significant in view of the 2014 floods witnessed in the Valley, will be undertaken by engineers and scientists of a UK-based consultancy HR Wallingford and has been named ‘Impact Based Flood Forecasting using Earth Observation based Information’ project.

Officials said the project which will not have any cost bearing on the J&K government will be undertaken as part of the National Space Innovation Programme (NSIP) established by the UK Space Agency which supports collaborative projects between UK organisations and international partners. The project will be undertaken by HR Wallingford in collaboration with Oxford University, Sayers & Partners (SPL) and D-Orbit (UK), officials informed.

In J&K, the nodal agency for the project is Jammu and Kashmir Water Resources Regulatory Authority.

An official statement said that Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has termed the project “as the next step of flood forecasting services”. “Having impact-based forecasts of flood risk will be useful for efficient, effective contingency planning and swift evaluation of severity for necessary response”, the LG said.

The LG has said that the international collaboration adds specific value in helping to analyse past flood events and identifying relationships between predicted floods and their impact. “The mechanism will predict impacts to people, their houses, crops, livestock, and transport routes, thereby mitigating many of the challenges people face during flood events,” the LG said.

In J&K, there is no effective impact based flood forecasting mechanism in place as such. As per official statement this is a big initiative taken by the LG and “will help to predict fluvial flood risks, in terms of expected loss to life, injuries to people, building collapse, infrastructure disruption and economic damage.” The framework will be capable of being linked to any existing or future flood flow forecasting system, the statement said.

Speaking with the Greater Kashmir, chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Water Resources Regulatory Authority, Ghanshyam Jha said initially it will be a 2 to 3 months long pilot study followed by a full-fledged project.

“We had recently organised a discussion between different stakeholders of the project in which different views were expressed. Normal flood forecasting is based on the Meteorological department’s rainfall data but with this we don’t get long-term effects of the floods. This study will be impact based and its results and data will be shared with all concerned departments so that there is better preparedness for floods,” Jha said.

Experts said the project involves a “hydrological model which is computer based” and usage of 3D maps in the study will help to get “a more precise impact based forecasting.”

“The earth observation based information is an elevation of an earth surface also known as Digital Elevation Model (DEM). Deputing 3D maps will give topography and inundation level so that we will also be able to know which area will be how much inundated incase of floods,” Jha said. He said with help of this project, the areas can be divided as per vulnerability which is also known as flood plain zoning.

According to a report prepared by Annual Disaster Statistical Review, Kashmir incurred losses of $16 billion (Rs 104000 crore ) due to 2014 floods. Kashmir floods have also been the 8th worst disaster in terms of number of people affected during 2014. As per the report, 3.60 million people were affected due to the floods. The Kashmir floods have also been listed as the 5th most deadly disaster worldwide in 2014 with a death toll touching 300. A study titled ‘A satellite-based rapid assessment on floods in Jammu & Kashmir–September, 2014’, conducted jointly by the Department of Environment and Remote Sensing and the ISRO, concluded that the 2014 floods inundated 557 sq-km of Kashmir and affected at least 22 lakh people. A recent report has put India among the 10 most disaster prone countries in the world and ranked floods as a climate related hazard posing the greatest risk to the people.