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Laos: Better Flood Warning System Benefits 60 Million Mekong Basin People
Source: kplnet.net
Source Date: Monday, May 31, 2010
Focus: Internet Governance
Country: Lao People's Democratic Republic
Created: Jun 07, 2010

(KPL) Communities who live in the Mekong River Basin would significantly benefit from the improvement in flood forecasting and guidance that had been developed by the Flood Management and Mitigation Programme, said the Mekong River Commission or MRC. Most of the 60 million people of the basin who were farmers and fishers and who were poor were highly vulnerable to floods. Floods endangered their lives, destroyed their livelihoods and crops and exacerbated their living conditions, said Jeremy Bird, CEO of MRC Secretariat at an annual regional forum in Vientiane on 25 May of government agencies, researchers, NGOs and other interested groups working on Mekong Basin flooding.

The MRC said considerable experience of working on flooding in its four member countries had demonstrated that a community-based approach to flood risk management and mitigation could help to fill the gap of the developed systems. Since 2005, the MRC said its flood programme had engaged 11 most flooded provinces in the lower Mekong Basin, to bring about improvement in the capacity of authorities to develop and implant flood preparedness programmes, community early warnings and energy responses, all of which contributed to the overall flood risk reduction efforts by the national governments. There was also a need for better coordination and this was in response to the recent disaster, Typhoon Ketsana, said Hatda An Pich, Operations Manager of MRCs Regional Flood Management Centre (RFMMC) based in Phnom Penh, which was responsible for forecasting flooding on the mainstream of the Mekong and for a new flash flood guidance system in the river basin to be tested this year. He added that for the long-term involvement to persist and to be assured then there is a need for the activities to be deeply entrenched in government development plans and to get communities to be involved so that they felt that they owned the system.

A MRC regional initiative to get people involved was to provide cell phones to villagers in flood prone areas, flood information billboards and to report localized floods to national forecasting agencies. The recorded data would then be sent back to the villagers who then publicise it on billboards at central locations in the floodplains and advertise any imminent flood via loudspeakers. Floodplain villagers in the provinces now get up to two-day notice of any impending flood. This was to enable them to prepare for imminent flooding and evacuation as well as to take measures to protect cattle and other livestock, as well as their properties. How did MRC s work out at the ground or grassroots level and Ponporn Deetes of Save the Mekong Coalition commented on it early last month. She said that while the countries in the lower basin suffered from lack of water, the MRC failed to warn local communities in northern Thailand and Laos about possible flooding in 2008.

She said this during a one-day powwow of non-governmental bodies, river lobbyists and media in Bangkok on 1 April. Pongphon Samsamak of the Thai English daily, The Nation, quoted her, There was a systemic lack of accountability to the public within the MRC, as it should monitor data more efficiently and formulate precautionary actions.
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