[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 March, 2003, 17:24 GMT
Mosques help fight floods
By Ben Sutherland
BBC News Online in Kyoto

The mosque has come to have added importance in some parts of Bangladesh - giving people advance warning of flooding.

Flooding in Bangladesh
Communication has helped warn Bangladeshis of floods
Bangladesh's long history of flooding saw the establishment in 1972 of a Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC).

However, warnings issued from the FFWC often arrive too late - or not at all.

This is due primarily to the widespread poverty in the country, with relatively few people able to access information put out on television, radio and the internet, or in the newspapers.

The problem is particularly acute in rural areas, where the warnings are needed most.

Massive improvement

The FFWC estimates only half of people in rural areas receive their warnings.

But trials using loudspeakers in mosques and at Muslims' five daily prayer meetings to broadcast the latest flood news have seen a massive improvement in communication.

"We found that this worked very well," Akhter Hossain, director of the FFWC, told the third World Water Forum meeting in the Japanese city of Kyoto.

"It makes a lot of difference."

Another advantage, he says, is that broadcasts can be made in the local dialect, making them much more understandable.

Hi-tech contrast

A joint venture between the US (Nasa) and Japanese space agencies is planning to eliminate the need for predictions by delivering up-to-the-minute data from satellites to the whole world.

The system has been given the name The Flying Rain Gauge and is expected to be fully operational by 2011.

"Rather than weather forecasting, we will have real time reports," Yoji Furuhama, executive director of the Japanese space agency Nasda, told the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto.

"We will be able to report on the weather as it happens."

We can send out a flood warning a month before it happens
Chris Ishida
The system's accuracy is based on the use of radio emitters. They transfer the data into a system known as Global Precipitation Measurement.

A rainfall map is then transmitted every three hours.

The map can distinguish between rain and snow, until now the biggest problem with satellite weather forecasting, to present a perfect snapshot of the world's weather.

"There are two ways of using the data," Chris Ishida of Nasa told BBC News Online.

"As well as making forecasting more accurate, it can be used to make a river basin elevation model - a forecast for flooding.

"We can send out a flood warning a month before it happens."

Information online

This is not the only hi-tech proposal at the Kyoto conference for a worldwide programme of flood warnings.

Flooding outside Prague
The death toll last year in the Czech Republic was less than feared
The International Flood Network has put forward plans to launch a Global Flood Alert System, which would use observational satellites to collect rainfall information.

This would then be collected and broadcast online around the world.

That would bypass one of the major problems with current flood warning systems - the reluctance of countries are often reluctant to share water information with each other.

The floods in the Czech Republic last August were one example of the effectiveness of early warning.

"Communication is much more effective than five years ago," Vaclav Baka, who advised the Czech Government on preparations for flooding in Prague, told the forum.

He said that lesser flooding in 1997 had left 60 people dead, while only 17 had perished in 2002 - despite the much greater damage caused.

Knowing that the flood was coming had allowed the evacuation of 5,168 people from the capital, Prague, as well as other essential preparations, such as use of long-arm diggers to support bridges at risk, he said.


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific