Chhimi Dema 

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM) are striving to improve the meteorological accuracy and develop early warning systems to strengthen the country’s preparedness and response to disasters.

The project called ‘JICA Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) for capacity enhancement of meteorological observation, forecasting and flood warning for disaster preparedness and response in Thimphu and Paro river basins’ is implemented in collaboration with the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) under the home ministry.

The project also involves organisations such as the Road Safety and Transport Authority, Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, and Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication, for inclusive disaster preparedness and response.

The first joint coordination committee meeting of the JICA TCP was held yesterday where relevant organisations finalised the joint coordination committee members, discussed the revised work plans, and shared the project’s status.

According to the project document, the project aims to enhance NCHM’s capacity for weather observation, forecasting and warning, and build capacity of the DDM’s flood disaster preparedness and response.

Phase I of the project was implemented from September 2013 to 2016 which provided training in weather forecasting methods, established the HimawariCast System for improved weather forecasting and instituted rainstorm flood forecasting and early warning in Chamkharchhu and Mangdechhu river basins.

Phase II of the project was scheduled to start in 2020 but the Covid-19 restrictions could only allow the commencement of some activities virtually.

The project document in Phase II highlights three outputs.

Output One and Two focus on building NCHM’s flood hazard assessment, forecasting and warning; and improving the centre’s weather observation, forecasting and communication of information respectively.

The third output aims to build the capacity of DDM and disaster management officers in Paro and Thimphu for flood disaster preparedness and response.

TCP’s project manager, Tayba Buddha Tamang, said that the country is trying to achieve the goal of disaster resilience towards flood hazards by establishing forecasting and flood early warning systems to warn the vulnerable communities through the project.

He said that a major component of the project is the establishment of early warning systems in Thimphu and Paro river basins and enhancing the forecasting capacity of NCHM.

Thimphu and Paro dzongkhags were chosen considering the likely risk of highwater formation in river sources, and the high population density of the two dzongkhags, according to Tayba Buddha Tamang.

The project started its second phase activities in May this year.

Some completed activities were the review of the information dissemination flow in NCHM’s standard operating procedure for the flood early warning system for stations in Punakha-Wangdue and Chamkharchuu – Mangdechhu, and Amochhu.

Speaking during the meeting, JICA Bhutan Office Chief Representative, Kozo Watanabe, said that one of the important aspects of the project is improving the provision of weather information to various stakeholders and beneficiaries, which includes farmers in agriculture sector.

“More accurate weather information provided to producers will be a means of avoiding various types of damage and improving production efficiency,” he said.

He added that this project which focuses on the assessment of weather conditions to flood forecasting and issuing warnings will be positioned as the most important disaster management plan for the country since it covers the country’s capital and Paro International Airport.

The project will end in September 2024.

Records with NCHM show 61 flash floods, heavy rainfall, flooding, glacial lake outburst flood, and stream catchment flood events from 1968 to 2016.