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International Workshop on Accuracy and Reliability of Flood Forecasting Models by Use of Remote Sensing Techniques

A two days workshop on “Accuracy and Reliability of Flood Forecasting Models by Use of Remote Sensing Techniques”, was jointly organized by the Pakistan Meteorological Department and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on
17-18 July, 2012 under the “Strategic Strengthening of Flood Warning & Management Capacity of Pakistan” project which is funded by the Government of Japan. This workshop included international participants from Australia, France, Japan and Taiwan as well as from the relevant organizations in Pakistan. The key message from the workshop included the need to link climate change and variability responses to develop necessary flood forecasting and management capacity in Pakistan. Major hydro-disasters in Pakistan are not a matter of if but when. The participants observed that there is need to have significant investment in the structural measures for flood management, for example, the government of Japan spends at least one percent of the GDP on flood management activities on a yearly basis. It was highlighted that the remote sensing technologies for the prediction of rainfall, the flows in the rivers and to delineate extent flooding are fast progressing. Under the present project these technologies are being transferred to Pakistan.

Early Warning, evacuation and preparedness is a continuum which spans across field observations, model forecasting, dissemination, evacuation and preparedness. If there is no data there will be no preparedness. However the on-ground rainfall and river flow data networks are inadequate to successfully customize these technologies for Pakistan. There is a need for a targeted action to collect soils, rainfall and river flow data in the Pakistani catchments especially in the upper Indus above Tarbella and the Kabul River. The present weather radar system needs to be upgraded to cover all important catchments of Pakistan. The models being developed under the present project for the Indus River need to be extended to the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej Rivers. Present flood plain maps (prepared in 2005) are totally redundant and out of order now. By virtue of the new model and remote sensing data fresh floodplain maps may be prepared, replacing the present one. While preparing these maps various inundation patterns may be considered (on various return periods). Those should be made available to all the provinces and districts for active response as well as to National Disaster Management Authority for “policy formulation and strategic guidance” and to Federal Flood Commission for monitoring of flood infrastructure.

In addition to the capacity building efforts of the project in Japan and Pakistan, there is also a need to strengthen the human resources capacity through indigenous courses at the Pakistani educational institutions. This will require a major update of the education and research framework under the current university setup which does not allow trans-disciplinary education and research.