WEC members discussing on flood early warning communication

WEC members discussing on flood early warning communication, PC: Amar Saud, RUWDUC

Reaching the unreached; through Community-based Flood Early Warning Systems in Mahakali basin


Mahakali a Himalayan catchment of Ghagra sub basin of the large Ganga Basin, originates from the Trans Himalayan region of Kalapani (>3600 m) and ultimately drains through the Terai plains of Uttar Pradesh. Numerous rivers and streams join the Mahakali from the higher, middle, lower and outer Himalayas.

Out of its total length of about 350 km, Mahakali flows about 223 km along the Uttarakhand-Nepal border. Its northernmost major tributary on the Indian side is the glacial Dhauliganga (E) or Darma, which meets the Mahakali at Tawaghat. Further downstream at Jauljibi is its confluence with the glacier-sourced Gori Ganga. After Jauljibi the Mahakali exits the alpine region and is joined by the Saryu near Pancheshwar. The latter, mainly a spring-fed river, is the longest tributary of Mahakali. Their confluence is also the site of the proposed multi-purpose Pancheshwar dam. The last important tributary on the Indian side is the spring-fed Ladhiya. 

Flood in Mahakali Basin

The Mahakali basin is susceptible to a range of hydro-meteorological and geological conditions that contribute to monsoon floods in the region. In addition, poverty and socio-economic disparity is high along the corridor. These hazard and social vulnerability along with poor land use plan, and unplanned urbanization have aggravated the flood risks (Paudel et al. 2013).

Some of the major causes of floods in Mahakali/Sharda river include heavy rainfall and cloudbursts in the area, together with glacial melting, heavy land erosion, slides and mass movements in saturated fragile geology. Heavily loaded water flow triggers further devastation. More losses have been observed in unprotected areas and low-level settlements. Failure or opening of water bodies such as dams and barrages adds to the floods and devastation (Feasibility of TBFEWS study, Oxfam, 2017).

Need of  Early Warning System

The Disaster Preparedness and Response Plan (DPRP, 2018) of Dadeldhura district after historical analysis of the water induced disaster identified Ranoon as one the most disaster-prone watersheds contributing to major flood risk in Dadeldura. Hence, OXFAM conducted a feasibility study of Transboundary Early Warning System of Mahakali basin together with Practical Action Consulting in 2018. The study report has recommended to establish Early Warning system in Rangoon and Tigram area in the Mahaklai basin.

The area where the CBFEWS was established has existing hydrological station at Kainpani and a precipitation station at Jogbuda operated by DHM, however both of them are manual and do not necessarily produce flood early warnings with sufficient lead time for Jogbuda and Simalkhet. Also, there are precipitation stations at Gaira, Siradi and Simalbanda, which are important for EWS in Rangun Khola.  In this situation, the CBFEWS installation was envisioned in Rangoon basin with the lead time is at least 3 hours for flood warning.

Based on the reference of study, ICIMOD with its partner Sustainable Eco Engineering in consultation with DHM and Pasuram municipality established Community Based Flood Early Warning System in Rangoon area. Rural Women’s Development and Unity Center (RUWDUC) being a local partner organization of OXFAM helped in site survey and assessment, selection of site and serving as caretaker.

CBFEWS at Rangoon

Rangoon basin covers 481 sq. km which is 31% of Dadheldhura district and contributes to 10% of its area in Mahakali basin. The CBFEWS was installed near Kalakot station to provide early warning system to communities of the Rangoon basin. The CBFEWS has provided the Early Warning Information to communities to ward number 12,5,6 of Pashuram municipality.

On 12 July, 2018, a heavy rainfall occurred in the Rangoon area. The sensor at Kalakot used to record 25 cm of water on other days however water level increased after 4pm increasing to 58 cm on that day. The information was shared through municipality to Elaka Police station, WEC members of Jogbudha. The information was passed to community including farmers, teachers so that everyone has access to the lifesaving information. The president of Pashuram Municpality Bhim Bahadur Saud expressed his happiness that the technology has helped to display information in board of Municipality and we were able to share the information to those communities timely to save the life of people. Yadab Bogati, the volunteer near the sensor station expressed that he could disseminate the information to the communities and also received phone calls from the WEC members.

The Women from Women Empowerment Center were also engaged in disseminating the flood information. “We informed each household members not to go to riverside, share the information to their family members who are coming through the way form the district headquarter. Everyone was alert and able to save life”. The statement was shared by Janaki Singh, a member of Parigau WEC during the recent WEC meeting last week.

Datta Ram Panday, incharge of Illaka Police office Dadeldhura told that the flood data information of Rangoon Khola in the display board has helped a lot to mobilise the security forces to be in alert position and further to the communities. Every year, there used to be 3 to 4 casualties in the Rangoon.  The technology has helped us to make us alert.