Flood forecasting, early warning a life saver for Mekong Basin people

Siem Reap, Cambodia, 18th May 2006

Many lives could be saved and the economic damage caused by the annual Mekong floods could be avoided through the implementation of a more efficient flood forecasting system, Mekong River Commission Secretariat CEO Dr Olivier Cogels told delegates at the Fourth Annual Mekong Flood Forum being held in Siem Reap today.

Dr Cogels said finding solutions to this need was one of the challenges facing the two-day forum, organised by the Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Centre (RFMMC) under the MRC’s Flood Management and Mitigation Programme (FMMP) which this year has the theme: “Improving Flood Forecasting and Warning Systems for Flood Management and Mitigation in the Lower Mekong Basin”.

The forum, which is being sponsored by the Royal Netherlands Government, aims to raise the awareness of the current state of flood forecasting and warning systems at the national and regional levels in the Lower Mekong Basin and will also provide an opportunity for participants to discuss emerging needs within the basin and to review the progress each country has made towards a holistic and balanced flood management plan.

It attracted more than 100 delegates including those from the Mekong River Commission (MRC) member countries of Cambodia, Lao DPR, Thailand and Viet Nam and their line agencies, regional and international scientists and experts, Dialogue Partners China and Myanmar, and representatives of international and national civil society organisations and local communities.

In his welcome remarks, Dr Cogels highlighted the impact of floods in the Mekong region, which each year cause many deaths and millions of dollars worth of damage to infrastructure, property and agriculture. He underscored the lack of sophisticated flood forecasting and warning systems in the Mekong River Basin and emphasised the urgent need to improve the quality of flood information.

“We need to develop professional, high-tech operational solutions to the basin's needs. We need to create a highly efficient flood forecasting system, which must also include the ability to cope with flash floods and which will provide accurate, timely and easily understood data to all those people likely to be affected by floods,” Dr Cogels said. “We are looking at a large investment in human, institutional and technical capacity,” he said, adding that this would require more investment from donors if MRC was to achieve its goals.

In his opening address, H.E Mr. Sin Niny, Vice Chairman of the Cambodia National Mekong Committee, told the forum delegates that flood forecasting and warning was a complex task and significant damage reduction could only be achieved if the whole range of necessary flood forecasting and warning activities was implemented and well coordinated. This required the compilation of a high-quality database with high quality data, competent and qualified human resources, state-of-the-art support tools and models, and appropriate communication technologies for warning dissemination.

“Improving the usefulness of forecasts by integrating the forecasts and warnings with all elements of floodplains is of great importance in flood risk reduction at both national and regional levels,” he said.

The Forum also provided participants with the opportunity to exchange experiences, best practices and ideas with the international community, academic institutions, international organisations and civil society organisations.

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For More Information

Ms Tiffany Hacker, Interim Communication Advisor
Tel: +856 56120695 or +856 21 263 263 Ext. 4703
Email: damian@mrcmekong.org

Mr Khy Lim, Communications Officer
Tel: +856 20 5622 8131
Email: khy@mrcmekong.org

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