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Vol. 8, No. 4 October-December 2002

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Regional Cooperation in Flood Forecasting and Information Exchange in the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region

The mountains of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region are the source of rivers that sustain the livelihoods of more than a billion people. But these rivers can pose a threat: floods regularly devastate downstream areas causing colossal damage to infrastructure and loss of lives and property. Effective and timely flood forecasting can provide one of the most cost-effective, reliable methods to reduce the negative impacts of floods. Timely warning is crucial both to save lives and property, and for the development and operation of large water resource projects. As most of the region’s rivers flow through more than one country, regional cooperation in hydrological activities, research and information exchange is essential for forecasting.

ICIMOD and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) are supporting the development of a regional flood information system for the HKH. A high-level consultative meeting on “Developing a Framework for Flood Forecasting and Information Exchange in the HKH” was held in Kathmandu in May 2001, sponsored by the US Department of State (Regional Environmental Office for South Asia), US Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance, DANIDA and WMO. This meeting laid the basis for a regional dialogue to address problems of flood disasters and forecasting. Participants from Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan agreed on an “Action Plan for Regional Cooperation for Flood Information Exchange in the HKH Region”. They recognized the potential for mutual technical assistance and sharing of expertise and know-how, and the need for technical improvement in the capabilities for timely flood forecasting and in hardware for monitoring and real-time data exchange. Efficient and reliable systems will also be required for mobilizing preparedness at the community level.

At its first meeting in May 2002, a Consultative Panel discussed and agreed on a concept paper on the establishment of a flood information system based on WMO’s WHYCOS concept. A 2nd High Level Consultative Meeting in January 2003 will refine the project document and push the process forward. ICIMOD, together with WMO and input from member countries, has developed a website ( for sharing and disseminating flood information.

Mandira Shrestha is Water Resources Specialist, Mountain Natural Resources Division, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). She can be contacted at

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