Mekong Flood Warnings to Come Earlier

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 27th May 2008

Warnings of flooding along the Mekong River and its tributaries should come earlier in future thanks to investments currently being made in the regional forecasting system through the Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) Flood Management and Mitigation Programme.

According to delegates at the Sixth Annual Flood Forum, held in Phnom Penh May 27-28, people vulnerable to flooding in the Lower Mekong Basin should soon receive better warning of inundation events. Improvements in technology and cooperation among the MRC member states, Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam, plus enhanced capacity among data gathering and analysis services in each country, mean that maximum advance notice for forecasting of floods should increase from five days to ten before the next rainy season.

In the wake of recent tragic events in Myanmar, the need to analyse weather and development patterns carefully, and to share information on a real-time basis to judge the threats of flooding, has never been clearer. Vice Chairman of Cambodia’s National Mekong Committee, Mr Sin Niny, told the meeting that rapid population growth in the region, together with urbanisation and changes in land use and river morphology, mean that the existing flood warning capacity needs upgrading. In accord with this, the four countries have been working with the MRC to develop a new system that can provide medium-term flood forecasts.

The annual forum, organised by the MRC’s Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Centre in Phnom Penh, is held to improve scientific and logistical cooperation, aiming to ensure that people along the Mekong and its tributaries are less vulnerable to flood damage, but can continue to benefit from the positive aspects of annual inundation. This year’s forum is held under the theme “integrated approaches and applicable systems for medium-term flood forecasting and early warning in the Mekong River Basin”.

The forum offers delegates from the four countries, plus China, Myanmar and representatives from international and civil society organisations, the opportunity to share views and experience. According to the MRC Secretariat Chief Executive Officer, Jeremy Bird, the event also helps enhance levels of flood preparedness. “Our ultimate focus has to be on delivering quality flood management services to the people of the basin,” said Bird. “Not only is the Flood Centre testing a new system that will provide more specific forecasting capabilities over the basin, but we are also working to strengthen links with national and local institutions that can transmit this information to the people living in flood-prone areas”.



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