Bangladesh improves disaster early warning system with ESCAP support

Disaster Risk Reduction: ESCAP Work for Asia Pacific
Disaster Risk Reduction: ESCAP Work for Asia Pacific

One of the world's most natural disaster-prone nations, Bangladesh has to live with recurring floods and cyclones which have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives over the past four decades. A high government priority, disaster preparedness is also good economics. Studies show that for every $1 invested in storm, cyclone and flood warning prediction systems in Bangladesh, the estimated return is between $8 and $500 for a 10-year period. The investments made so far have contributed to the saving of thousands of lives, and the Government is stepping up its efforts.

The international community has been helping the country improve disaster preparedness with bilateral agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) contributing to strengthening end-to-end early warning systems in Bangladesh.

These include the ESCAP Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness. Established in 2005 with a contribution of US$10 million from the Government of Thailand and US$2.5 million from Sweden, the Fund helped set up the Regional Integrated Early Warning System for Africa and Asia (RIMES) with the collaboration of the Asia Disaster Preparedness Centre. RIMES has supported Bangladesh in developing long-lead flood forecasting and in concurrent monitoring of depressions and cyclone formation in the Bay of Bengal.

The ESCAP Trust Fund has received additional support from Bangladesh, Nepal, the Philippines and Turkey. To date, the Fund has supported six RIMES-related projects, totaling US$6 million.

RIMES has worked with Bangladesh to develop weather and flood forecast products with improved lead times. It has developed and transferred technology to the Bangladesh Meteorological Department and Flood Forecasting and Warning Center. RIMES is providing back-up support to both institutions until new technology is fully integrated into their operations.

User agencies such as the Disaster Management Bureau and the Department of Agricultural Extension have been working with RIMES in the interpretation of new forecast products and translation into impact outlooks and response options for resource and disaster risk management.

RIMES has worked with local governments and NGOs, including CARE and Save the Children to demonstrate the use of new forecast products in planning and decision-making.

The Government of Bangladesh has mobilized US$ 28 million from the Climate Resilient Fund for a comprehensive early warning system improvement project, of which US$4 million is budgeted for technical inputs for RIMES.

"Alleviating disasters is of critical importance to Bangladesh. A regional approach has tremendous benefits. Given Bangladesh's experience with disasters, we are willing to share our experience within the ESCAP framework and to make a contribution regionally, says H.E. Mr. Kazi Imtiaz Hossain, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Bangladesh and Permanent Representative to ESCAP.

Technical details of RIMES support to Bangladesh

1. Longer-lead Flood Forecasting

  • Enhanced the 1-10 day flood forecast technology for disaster preparedness in Bangladesh
  • Piloted the application in preparedness planning and decision-making of experimental 1-10 day forecasts in pilot areas. Based on outcomes, the enhanced 1-10 day flood forecasting system has been operationalized by FFWC.
  • Efforts to expand coverage of 1-10 day flood forecasting system from current 18 river stations to all 38 stations of FFWC

2. 20-25 day and Seasonal Forecasting

  • Operationalizing 20-25 day and seasonal forecasting schemes
  • Capacity building activities to enable intermediary users and communities to use forecast products

3. Flash Flood Early Warning

  • Enhancing flash flood early warning system in Northeast Bangladesh for longer lead time

Collaboration with the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD)

1. Weather/ extreme weather events forecasting:

  • Daily provision of weather simulation outputs for BMD weather forecasting
  • Monitoring of typhoons and other extreme events and provision of simulation products up to a day

2. Numerical Weather Prediction: Capacity building in the use of customized Weather Research Forecasting model increased lead time of weather forecasts from 24 to 72 hours. Model products are uploaded daily to the BMD website.

3. Storm Surge Modeling: Enhanced capacity in generating high-resolution storm surge and wave forecasts at coasts.

4. Concurrent Monitoring of Depressions and Cyclone Formation and Tracking: RIMES assists BMD in concurrent monitoring of depressions and cyclone formation in the Bay of Bengal using an advanced model to spot favorable conditions for cyclone formation, with a lead time of up to 7 days. The model is integrated at a greater resolution, currently at 9 km, which can be further improved to 3 km resolution.

5. Monsoon Forum: A twice a year dialogue with national and local level forecast users.

6. Pre-Impact Assessment Tool Development: Developing a RIMES Decision Support System for assessing potential hazard impact based on forecast information. Impact outlooks can guide preparation of response options/management actions for minimizing loss of lives, livelihood, and properties.