An aerial view from an army rescue helicopter shows the remote flood-affected Pakistani town Dera Alayar on August 15, 2010. Experts have warned that Pakistan's flood forecasting system is flawed. – File photo by AFP
An aerial view from an army rescue helicopter shows the remote flood-affected Pakistani town Dera Alayar on August 15, 2010. Experts have warned that Pakistan's flood forecasting system is flawed. – File photo by AFP

LAHORE, July 25: Foreign and local experts have identified flaws in the existing rain and flood forecasting system of the country and called for speedy improvements so that remote-sensing technologies being provided to it may be better utilised.

Attending a two-day workshop titled ‘Accuracy and Reliability of Flood Forecasting Models by Use of Remote Sensing Techniques’ — which was organised jointly by the Pakistan Meteorological Department and Unesco under a project funded by Japan — experts from Australia, France, Japan and Taiwan and representatives of the concerned Pakistani organisations underlined the need to factor in climate change models while developing the capacity to predict and manage floods.

The participants of the workshop were of the opinion that significant investments were needed in flood management efforts and said the Japanese government spent at least 1 per cent of its GDP in such initiatives every year.

They said that remote-sensing technologies for prediction of rainfall, floods and river flows, which were being utilised efficiently in many countries, were now being transferred to Pakistan under the project funded by Japan.

“Early warning, evacuation and preparedness are parts of a continuous process 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 customise these technologies for Pakistan,” it was observed.

The participants felt the need for a targeted action to collect soil, rainfall and river flow data in the country’s catchment areas, especially in the upper Indus and Kabul rivers.

The existing weather radar system needs to be upgraded to cover all important catchment areas of the country. The models being developed under the present project for the Indus need to be extended to the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej rivers.

The participants said the existing flood plain maps (prepared in 2005) were redundant. With the help of the new model and remote-sensing data, fresh floodplain maps should be prepared to replace the existing ones.

These should be made available to all districts and provinces as well as to the National Disaster Management Authority for “policy formulation and strategic guidance” and to the Federal Flood Commission for monitoring of flood infrastructure.

They said the Pakistan Meteorological Department was familiar with several weather prediction models but their accuracy was a key issue.

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