17 February 2020
Let me try to give a short update on how we’ve started 2020 in the Asian region, regarding our Flood Early Warning programs. My general impression is that Flood Early Warning is improving in the Asian region, although mainly on a technical level. Institutionally speaking, there are still major challenges to overcome. For example on data sharing and system maintenance.
Open Data is by far not as sophisticated as in the Western world. A data owner has a unique market position by keeping the data for himself, instead of sharing. Even if it’s data produced by governmental tax. It will take some time before this will change and our data integration platforms (like Delft-FEWS) will no longer be hungry for data.
Another challenge to overcome is the concept you could summarize as ‘system maintenance’. Developing a Flood Early Warning system is one thing, but maintaining it is something else. Traditional projects in developing countries are usually realized by financial funds or grants that have a big focus on the former component, development. The latter component, maintenance, is either for a short period of time (a couple of months or years) covered by the fund / grant, but is in any way assumed to be financed eventually by the end-users themselves. Which usually speaking are governmental agencies (hydromet centers, flood/drought committees, etc). Fully adopting the ‘developed tools’ in their organizational structure requires an organizational change, both in terms of financial resources and roles / responsibilities. In developing counties like Vietnam and Indonesia for example, this is significantly underestimated.
Recent examples are the January floods in Indonesia, where their sophisticated Delft-FEWS application “did not function well” which resulted in increased flood damage (see the blog of Klaas-Jan van Heeringen from January 20). Or the salinization of the Mekong due to an extremely dry period which had a big impact on the agricultural sector, while our Delft-FEWS application is ‘waiting for operational data’ to improve the salinization forecasts.
Photo: Another work session at a Provincial HydroMet Centre in Vietnam, working together with the end users on system operation and data integration.