UNESCO led International Workshop on Strategic Data for Reliable Models and Timely Flood Forecasts, 10 – 11 April 2017

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United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in partnership with the Government of Japan through Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is extending financial and technical support to the Government of Pakistan to address flood related challenges. The project is being implemented in Pakistan by Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) and University of Engineering and Technology (UET). In this regard, an International Workshop on “Strategic Data for Reliable Models and Timely Flood Forecasts” was launched on April 10th, 2017 in Islamabad. The workshop attracted participation of a number of irrigation experts and flood management professionals from government and private sector, development organization, provincial irrigation departments and academia. Engr. Khalil Raza, Scientific Officer ECOSF participated in the inaugural session of the workshop on behalf of the ECO Science Foundation.

The primary purpose of holding this workshop was to share the best practices in data acquisition approaches and techniques towards modeling the reliable flood forecast in the Indus basin with an objective to safely manage and control flood using effective flood forecasting mechanism. The workshop is aimed at capacity development of managers of the Indus Basin and that will enable them to use hydrological models for flood management and decision support tools for mitigation and relief activities.

Ms. Vibeke Jensen, Director UNESCO Islamabad, in her welcome address stressed that flood management is strategic and extremely important for Pakistan. There is a strong indication that climate change is intensifying the disasters such as floods and droughts in the country. Therefore, it is indispensable for Pakistan to develop the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for flood management system for better flood control. She also highlighted the role of UNESCO which has been promoting the collaboration among various countries to develop the capacity and share the best practices. Ms. Jensen stressed that reliable date is key for effective flood management system and it is a vital mechanism to avoid any catastrophic event.

Dr. Muhammad Ashraf, Chairman Pakistan Council for Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) in his opening remarks said that accurate and timely flood forecasting is critical to Pakistan for regulation and safe disposal of floods to reduce devastating impact. This workshop will bring important recommendations that will help flood management practitioners to better understand the flood early warning system and flood forecasting information obtained through these hydrological models, he added. He also shared a success story of this project, as this initiative has enabled them to perform accurate weather forecasting using modern tools. In addition, with these tools, flood mangers are now better equipped to determine the soil properties, characteristics and texture, moisture retention curve. This makes this initiative a unique project in the history of Pakistan.

Dr. Ghulam Rasool, Director General, Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) appreciated the technical and financial support extended to Pakistan by the Government of Japan and UNESCO. This workshop holds a great importance in the area of flood forecasting for Pakistan, as it is one of the most vulnerable countries to floods and natural disaster.

Dr. Shahbaz Khan, Director UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science in Asia and the Pacific, highlighted the role of UNESCO in imparting quality training in the field of flood management for over the last twenty-five years in the region. He appreciated that support of Government of Japan and its years long commitment towards development of disaster risk management system in the developing region. Japan has played an important role in management of disaster with engagement of local communities, he added. Therefore, there is a need to develop a nexus among educational partners, local community and businesses to better manage the disaster risks. He also shared the rich history of irrigation and water management in the Indus Valley Civilization in Pakistan. He said that Mohen jo Daro is one of the earliest settlement that is over 6000 years old. Mohenjo Daro was strategically located in the west of Indus river and due to which the land was so fertile, and there was a rich culture, as designated by UNESCO as one of the world’s heritage sites. Dr. Khan quoted a research study which concludes that there was a two-hundred-year long period of drought about 4000 years ago in the Indus Valley Civilization. The primary reason attributed to this drought has been linked to the shifting of monsoon to the east, causing extreme fluctuation in floods and droughts, which is thought to be a major cause that killed the people of Mohen Jo Daro. Dr. Khan stressed for the need to bring the knowledge and outcomes of this workshop to policy level.

Dr. Shahbaz Khan also shared his assessment on key threats to Pakistan, which are as follows:

  1. Deforestation;
  2. Afforestation, putting billion trees at wrong place and time can pose serious threat to ecosystem;
  3. Climate Shift, as in the case of Mohenjo Daro, the monsoon is shifting east to west;
  4. Melting Glaciers;
  5. Lack of Integrated Water Management Practices, as surface water and ground water are being managed separately, and
  6. Transboundary water issues.

Mr. Yashuhiro Tojo, JICA Chief Representative in Pakistan, said that Japan is one of the most disaster prone countries in the world and over the time, it has established its expertise in the development of disaster risk management strategies. Thus Japan has gained sufficient experience and expertise to provide technical and financial support to the Government of Pakistan to safely manage the floods using modern tools, such as forecasting, early warning and flood hazard analysis techniques.

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