Banke Bardia Flood Warning programme
Duration: Sept 2007 - December 2008
Funding: European Commission's Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) under the Disaster Preparedness ECHO (DIPECHO) IV Action Plan for South Asia
The project aims to strengthen the capacity of vulnerable flood prone communities and district authorities to respond to and mitigate the effects of flood in Banke and Bardia Districts. Project component includes advocacy and public awareness, infrastructure support, mitigation, develop and establish EWS and capacity building of vulnerable communities to strengthen their resilience to respond to risk. The direct beneficiaries are people living alongside the west Rapti River in Banke and Babai River in Bardia. The implementing partners of the project are Centre for Social Development and Research (CSDR) in Banke and Radha Krishna Tharu Jana Sewa Kendra (RKJS) in Bardia. The Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DH&M) provided technical support to establish community level flood gauge stations.
The project successfully demonstrated community based flood EWS developing linkages of upstream DH&M gauging station with downstream communities. Combination of simple information flow channel, hand operated siren and involvement of communities and local stakeholders to disseminate the upstream water level information and possible flood risk to the downstream vulnerable communities proved very effective. Various awareness campaigns, small scale mitigation activities and low cost, replicable infrastructures were promoted to assist community level Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). Community Based Disaster Management (CBDM) plan in target communities and District Disaster Management Plan (DDMP) for Bardia District are prepared. Sharing lessons from the project helped in up scaling EWS approach in other areas by government and non government stakeholders. Change in existing flood risk monitoring and early warning at community and institutional level has benefited 40,317 people in Banke and Bardia Districts.
The project considered communities as an integral part of the EWS and involved them in designing the action plan including the participatory vulnerability assessment, identification of problems and activities, and sharing of resources. Participation of senior citizens, women, youth and people with disabilities was ensured by holding open discussions with them on their special requirements for EWS. This participatory approach has empowered the communities on the importance of EWS to cope with floods. In project's initiation and active participation of the community, the DH&M flood monitoring data was successfully used as early warnings for the first time in Nepal. As a result of the efficient information dissemination channel and the communication system put in place by the project has increased the response time at least by three hours. With real time EWS experience coupled with project activities has substantially increased the potential of EWS to limit the impacts of flood by increasing the response time by the communities in the vulnerable areas.
Achieving impact at a scale
The project has sensitised the community, government and non government stakeholders on the importance of EWS in Disaster Management Strategy. EWS is now being discussed nationally in various workshops, seminars and fora. Government institutions have already started to incorporate EWS into DRR and development plans and programmes of Banke, Bardia, Chitwan and Nawalparasi Districts. Similarly, CBDM plan is in implementation in four VDCs and four wards of Banke and Bardia focusing on disaster preparedness and EWS. Altogether, 15 VDCs have incorporated EWS into their annual activities and mobilised funds for strengthening and sustaining EWS. With the implementation of the plan, the communities are now better equipped to respond to flood through provision of improved evacuation routes, boats and other response materials. The communities have improved critical infrastructures such as bridges, culverts, machan and rescue shelters at strategic sites.
Practical Action provided technical inputs to Mercy Corps to incorporate EWS in their Kailali Disaster Risk Reduction Initiatives. The DIPECHO IV partners - Action Aid Nepal, CARE Nepal and Danish Red Cross Nepal have shown their interest in integrating EWS into their new DIPECHO action plans. These partners have requested Practical Action for technical support to establish EWS in their working areas.
Under the DIPECHO III Action Plan, EWS was established in Chitwan and Nawalparasi Districts based on the visual flood monitoring system at the site of impact by erecting flood monitoring towers equipped with electrical sirens. This system provided a limited warning time for evacuation to a safer place. Under the DIPECHO IV Action Plan in Banke and Bardia Districts, the EWS was improved by monitoring and disseminating the upstream water level information to downstream communities using telephone, hand microphone and hand sirens which provided longer time for preparedness and evacuation. Through this project 37 hand sirens, 20 hand microphones and 5 CDMA telephones, 121 life jackets and 25 boats were supported to the vulnerable communities. Nine bio-engineering dyke/spurs with river bank slopping technology at two places, 24 culverts/bridges at strategic sites and 8 shelters were constructed in the target districts.
The linkage of upstream DH&M gauging station with downstream communities is the basic technique followed by the project to establish river basin based EWS. The appropriate upstream gauging stations were selected in consultation with district authorities, stakeholders and communities. Providing enough response time was a major criterion for this selection. At the downstream, community resource maps were prepared to develop community level information dissemination and relay systems in which location of CDMA telephone, hand operated sirens, hand microphones and relevant stakeholders and volunteers were indicated.
Tika Ram Tharu, resident of Bhaishahi village, Mohamadpur VDC in Bardia District lost his wife in the 1988 flood. So far seven people have died and almost every family has lost their properties. Mohamadpur VDC, in the east bank of Babai River is flooded almost every year but no measure was taken to safeguard the VDC from recurring floods.
But today, people of this VDC can be safely evacuated during the monsoon using recently constructed concrete bridge over the infamous Kanjarawa Nala. During one of the meetings while community development issues were being discussed; local participants prioritised activities to minimise the impact of annual flooding. A construction committee was formed including members of the Disaster Management Group for the construction of pedestrian bridge at Kanjarawa Nala. Total cost of the bridge construction was NPR. 854,000 (£6672) out of which the project supported NPR. 627,000 (£4898) and remaining NPR. 227,000 (£1773) was supported by CBDMP of UNDP. Due to the joint effort of BBFWP and CBDMP the bridge was constructed in two months.
Tika Ram is happy to see the newly constructed bridge and turns emotional when he says, "nobody will lose their loved ones now."
The VDC was once barely accessible even though the Nepalgunj-Gulariya highway passed close to the village. Today the new bridge serves as an evacuation route during the monsoon and has given hope to all the villagers.
"We would never dare to go to school during the floods as we had to use wooden logs to cross the Kanjarawa Nala. But now we have a strong bridge and we can go to school during the time of flood," says Moti Chaudhary a 17 year old studying in grade IX in Nepal Rastriya Secondary School, Gulariya.
CASE STUDY Early warning brings hope
Nirmala Devi lives in Holliya village, in Banke District on the banks of Rapti River. She is a mother of five sons and shares a small hut with her extended family of sixteen members. She has had no formal education and thinks she should be somewhere between 40 to 45 years of age.
Her family owned 3 bighas of land which was unfortunately swept away by Rapti River during a flood five years ago Since then the family solely depends on form of share cropping called Bataiya Kheti. Nirmala recalls stories of their plantations being swept away every year during the monsoon making it difficult for her and her family to meet year round food supply.
Practical Action, together with its partner organisation CSDR in Banke, approached Holliya in 2008 with a pre-monsoon preparedness programme. Before learning about the different flood management and rescue techniques, Nirmala worried for her family's safety. She recounts memories of Rapti's rising water level every year during the monsoon season and fearing for her children's lives. However, through various training and exposure visits, she has learned the relation between the water level in the upper and lower stations. She now knows where to contact for information and when to move to a safer shelter. With the construction of spurs and dykes at the banks of Rapti, she is hopeful that it will protect their farmable lands from river cutting.
With long term exposure and successful trainings she is now an active member in the management committee formed under the project. "I feel good to be able to share my new skills and knowledge with the fellow community members," she says. She further adds that it is important to be aware so that people are prepared and can protect themselves from floods and other natural disasters.
The committee has selected 30 volunteers from all the nearby flood prone areas. These members have received hand sirens, boats and lifejackets so that they can help themselves and the community in case of an emergency. Nirmala shows signs of confidence and says, "had we known what we know now, we would have been able to protect ourselves better and would not have to live in fear."