Hydromet service comes of age

Weather forecasting and flood warning to be done in real time 

Tech: June 28, 6:30pm. Lemthang tsho had burst. The lake at the source of Mochu above Laya had the Prime Minister and an entire monitoring team including the economic affairs minister gauging the situation from Thimphu.

There is a problem. The telephone lines have jammed. They can’t connect with the field staff constantly measuring the water level.

Such communication problems will not be an obstacle now. The control room in Thimphu can instantly contact the weather and flood stations using the newly installed satellite phone.

The communication system was one of aspects launched in the new National Weather and Flood Warning Centre (NWFWC) yesterday.

With the launch of the NWFWC the Hydro-Met services department would operate 24 hours a day every week hereafter.

Economic affairs secretary Dasho Yeshi Wangdi said, “The department is now poised and ready to take up the role as a national supervisory agency for real time monitoring of hydro-meteorological conditions and issue advisory and warnings on weather, flood and glacial lake outbursts in the country.”

The department can now prepare and disseminate seasonal outlook of weather and climatic conditions and have real time access to global hydro-meteorological data.

“The global telecommunication system (GTS) makes it possible to have access to all the global meteorological data, forecasts and alerts,” the secretary said.

JICA funded the GTS and a satellite receiving station, which will be installed in February next year and will update weather data every 10 minutes.

Bhutan’s fragile mountain ecosystem is highly susceptible to geological and hydro-meteorological hazards. The frequency of disasters has increased in the past few years.

A record rainfall in May 2009 brought Cyclone Aila claiming 12 lives and destroying properties worth USD 17 million. The Lemthang tsho outburst and numerous floods have caused loss of crops and properties in various parts of the country.

GLOF early warning systems are now in place in the Chamkharchu and Mangdechu basins through a JICA project.

The two Punatsangchhu hydropower projects contributed Nu 20 million (M) for installation of the GLOF early warning system (EWS) in the Punatsangchu basin. Mangdechu hydropower project authority gave Nu 36.8M for installation to partly fund the installation of GLOF EWS along the Chamkhar and Mangdechu basins and Nu 6M for the construction of NWFWC.

The building houses three key components of NWFWC: a weather forecasting room, flood monitoring and warning room, and a server room.

A road map to modernise weather, water and climate services was also launched during the ceremony.

The NWFWC would also be linked with the national disaster emergency operation centre and other relevant agencies for timely dissemination of hydro-meteorological disaster and related information.

The hydro-meteorological services started with implementation of Bhutan’s PSMP under the NORAD funding in 1990.

Tshering Palden

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