Bangladesh plans to launch free SMS flood warning


Farmers in Bangladesh would be happy with an early warning system that doesn’t rely on smartphones. Authorities and inventing an SMS service after devastating floods have killed many people and destroyed crops. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS
  • by Rafiqul Islam (dhaka)
  • Inter Press Service

“Floods are very common in the charred areas during monsoons. Nevertheless, I sowed jute seeds on the charcoal. This year the flood hit our site too early, damaging my jute field,” he said.

Ziaur said his burlap field was nearly mature and could have been harvested in a matter of weeks, but the sudden deluge damaged it.

“I didn’t get the flood forecast on time and that’s why I didn’t harvest jute, which caused me a heavy loss this year,” he said.

Like Zillur, many farmers lost their crops due to the devastating flood that ravaged the northwestern and northwestern regions of Bangladesh in June this year.

Bangladesh Agriculture Minister Dr Abdur Razzaque said floods have damaged about 56,000 hectares of Aus (a type of rice) across the country this year.

The Flood Forecasting and Warning Center (FFWC) under the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) issues daily flood bulletins and warnings, but the people living in remote and vulnerable areas hardly benefit because they do not have the right technology.

Under the digital flood forecasting and warning system introduced in 2021, the FFWC provides flood warnings to the people living in flood-prone areas via ‘Google push notifications’ three days to three hours before a flood strikes.

To receive flood warnings, people need an Android mobile phone. Notifications are sent to these devices via a Google alert between three days and three hours before the onset of a flood, depending on the predictive capability of the system.

BWDB, in collaboration with tech giant Google and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, developed the system, which now works in the country’s 55 districts.

Sarder Udoy Raihan, a subsection engineer of FFWC, said the BWBD has data on flooding available and is sending it to Google.

Google improved flood mapping using its topographic data and sends ‘push flood alerts’ to people living in flood-prone areas.

While this system has been helpful, many people living in remote chars and flood-prone areas do not have access to smartphones and the internet, so they do not receive digital flood warnings.

BWDB has decided to launch a free SMS service with messages and information about flooding, BWDB officials said.

The BWDB, a2i, Google, the International Red Cross and the Red Crescent have already partnered up to reach the flood warnings and information at the doorstep of people in the country’s flood-prone areas via a free mobile SMS service. This allows them to take measures to protect their property before a flood strikes.

FFWC executive engineer Arifuzzaman Bhuyan said talks with concerned stakeholders including Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) are continuing to introduce the SMS service.

“The introduction of the flood warning SMS service will depend on the BTRC as there is a cost issue,” he said, hoping the BWDB could launch the SMS service in the next season.

Once the free text messaging service is launched, cell phone users living in flood areas will be identified using their cell phone tower ping, and text messages will be sent to them with information about the rise or fall of river water levels. , the severity of the flood and details of the nearest shelter.

Raihan said it would be possible to send about 36 million text messages a year through cell phone operators if flood warnings could be sent to people via text message.

Sardar Mohammad Shah-Newaz, former director of the Flood Division at the Dhaka-based think tank, Institute of Water Modeling (IWM), said that if the flood forecast was not properly disseminated to those living in flood-prone areas, it would not would help.

“Almost all people in the country use cell phones. If the flood warnings could reach people living in flood-prone zones via free mobile text messages, they could take precautions to save their property and minimize their loss and damage,” he said.

Shah-Newaz suggested automating the flood forecasting system in Bangladesh and said the BWDB could introduce the SMS service and it should launch the service as soon as possible.

Flood is a common phenomenon in Bangladesh. During each monsoon, a flood affects different parts of the country, causing enormous loss of life and property.

Due to heavy rainfall upstream in India’s northeastern states, Bangladesh suffered devastating flooding in the northwestern districts and Sylhet Division, stranding millions of people and creating a humanitarian crisis.

The death toll from the country’s floods has reached 123 this year, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). The total number of deaths was recorded from May 17 to July 17 in 2022.

Of the total deaths, 69 people died in Sylhet, 41 in Mymensingh, 12 in Rangpur and one in Dhaka.

Report of the IPS UN Office

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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