Print Edition - 2014-10-21  |  Development

Timely weather forecast goes a long way to minimise toll

- PRAGATI SHAHI
Timely weather forecast goes a long way to minimise toll

Oct 20, 2014-

Nepal’s western mountains in the Annapurna region was gripped by an unexpected weather spell last week causing heavy casualties including that of foreign and local trekkers, and guides. The unexpected turn of events during the peak trekking season has drawn widespread attention of policymakers and concerned stakeholders towards investing in proper weather forecasts and project strategies for lowering the risks by relaying accurate information on time, according to experts.

Just three days before snowstorms hit the high-altitude regions of Mustang and Manang along the Annapurna Circuit on Tuesday, the weather forecasting division had issued a public warning about the advancing Hudhud cyclone and its possible impacts in various parts of the country in days to come.  “The information, however, was not disseminated through right channels, which eventually led to huge loss of lives and properties,” said Rishi Ram Sharma, director general at the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), an official responsible to provide weather predictions and forecasts before such disasters.

Last week’s incident comes as a wake-up call for policymakers to work towards prompt weather and rainfall predictions, and the necessity of forecasting measures across the country, said Sharma. The DHM, at present, is limited to hydrological and meteorological stations.

“Some initiatives on providing early warnings over floods in some districts in the Mid-west and Far-west have been undertaken by the DHM in coordination with various local and non-governmental partners to mitigate disaster risks during monsoon season,” Sharma said, adding, “We need to scale up our efforts by equipping hydrological and meteorological stations with real-time weather forecasting, and make use of improved systems for managing disaster risks.”

Issuing accurate forecasts and warnings in a simplified form that is readily understood could prevent casualties and loss of properties. We should also be able to educate people on measures to take during such disasters, said Ajay Dixit, a senior water expert working in the disaster sector.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala on Thursday, expressing deep concern over the severity of the avalanche that struck Manang and Mustang along with other mountainous districts, said that the government is committed to set up a weather warning system and urged concerned authorities to invest in producing them.

With the climate change scenario projecting frequent weather extremes including floods, heat waves and droughts, the necessity to incorporate recent technological advances that have dramatically strengthened forecasting capacities in other countries, is felt strongly in the country.

Telecommunication authorities have an equally crucial role to play for they alert their customers through SMSs ahead of an unwanted disaster such as the changing weather phenomenon. Disaster prone countries like the Philippines have successfully utilised the service to provide timely and accurate weather information to the public.

“We need to engage more stakeholders including the telecom sector to mitigate the risks related to disasters and to improve the resilience of local communities,” said Bishal Nath Upreti, chairperson of Disaster Preparedness Network-Nepal.

Published: 21-10-2014 09:17

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