Climate information and early warning systems key for disaster reduction

Nellie Kapatuka:

As the world keeps grappling with adverse and frequent disasters, experts are geared to finding long lasting solutions in order to prevent and reduce disaster impacts.

Malawi, a country that experiences different kinds of disasters almost every year ranging from floods, dry spells and lightning’s among others, is also striving to devise ways to forecast disasters to prevent them from happening to lessen the damage and impacts in disaster prone areas in the country.

In responding to this need to improve climate information and early warning systems to help protect vulnerable communities, UNDP partnered with the Government of Malawi, through the Department of Disaster of Management Affairs (DoDMA) to implement a project co-funded by the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The project, scaling up the use of Modernised Climate Information and Early Warning System (M-Climes) is a six-year initiative aimed at scaling up the best practices in community readiness to respond to disasters and mitigate key risks.

M-Climes has developed an operations decision support system which is a flood warning system along the catchment areas of two big rivers of Bua and Linthipe in the central region which are major sources of flooding water in the region.

During a sensitization meeting in Nkhokota and Salima aimed at informing stakeholders about the system developed and their roles in the dissemination of flood early waning information to communities, experts emphasized on the need for involvement of community leaders at all levels if efforts being made to reduce and mitigate disaster impacts are to materialize.

Principal Hydrologist in Malawi’s Department of Water Resources, Hastings Mbale said the system has been developed using combined rainfall runoff hydrological model and warning messages are to be provided through email, mobile messages and also community radios.

Mbale said most disasters that occur affect local communities the most hence the need to improve communication channels between technical experts and the people.

“We would like to build community resilience to reduce the impacts of floods and this can best be championed by the people themselves hence calling them here to make them aware and also familiarize them with the system,” said Mbale.

According to Mbale, in terms of operations and maintenance, strategic measures have been put in place to ensure smooth operation and maintenance of the system’s network, including regular monitoring and also maintenance of hydrological stations.

The system has a capacity to detect floods 72 hours earlier.

M-CLIMES project coordinator, Ted Nyekanyeka said the system will help minimize the losses that comes with floods and at the same time save lives.

“From now on we expect that when we receive rains during this season and the coming seasons, the system will be recording rainfall levels and if there are thresholds being surpassed in terms of danger zones, the system will capture that information which will then be used by relevant authorities to make decisions based on the forecast,” said Nyekanyeka.

Nyekanyeka said that the system will go a long way in protecting communities and their livelihoods.

Deputy Director Risk Reduction for DoDMA, Fedson Chikuse said the disaster coordinating agency is already on top of things in preparation for this year’s rainy season.

Chikuse said that will help all concerned to alert people of the impending rainfall patterns to ensure measures are put in place to lessen disaster impacts if they are to happen.

Apart from the flood warning systems, M-Climes has also installed 8 lightning detection sensors and lake based automated weather stations across the country to collect lake weather parameters for forecasting lake weather conditions and also water quality data that is used by fisheries research in the country’s department of fisheries.

The M-Climes project is one of the several projects that UNDP is implementing to support the Malawi government with lasting solutions to help create greater resilience for communities at risk of disasters, which is contributing to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals and aligned with Malawi’s national development priorities.

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