J4.4 Lessons Learned in Building Hydrometeorological Early Warning Systems in Developing Countries : Why Some Systems Fail and Others Succeed

Wednesday, 13 January 2016: 11:15 AM
Room 255/257 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Curt Barrett, USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Westminster, MD; and S. A. Tokar

Handout (5.4 MB)

According to the World Bank as many as 23,000 lives could be saved and between $3 and $30 billion in economic benefits could be realized if National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) were strengthened to produce needed forecast and warning services. Climate –related disasters account over 90 percent of all natural disasters that were recorded between 1994-2013 (CRED). Floods, storms, droughts and extreme temperatures alone affected over 3 billion people, claiming about 600,000 lives and caused about US$2 trillion in economic damages during the same period. As encroachment of settlements on floodplains increases, more people and structures are at risk and are more vulnerable to flooding and flash flooding. Coupling this with an increase in probability of extreme hydrometeorological events, the stage is set for an increase threat to major hydrometeorological disasters including flash flooding (especially urban flooding), river flooding, mudslides, droughts and coastal flooding at risk from storm surges.

There is an increasing need for countries to develop Early Warning Systems (EWS) as the threat of high impact climate events increase and as the population at risk continues to increase in coastal and riverine floodplains. It is important that hydrometeorological systems such as EWSs are established and sustained since funding available to build capacity in developing countries is not likely to increase given a tightening global economy. However, the current project approach used by donors and development banks for establishing hydrometeorological systems is not working.

A recent study conducted by USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance revealed that many past hydrometeorological projects have not been sustained and further lessons documented from these projects has not been learned. In February, 2015 USAID/OFDA sponsored a Lessons Learned forum primarily to understand why lessons in hydrometeorological projects are identified but not learned or if they are learned, how are they learned. If they are not learned, how can the process be fixed? The outcome of this Forum was the Antalya Statement , which generated six Disaster Risk Reduction Calls to Actions of which two concern EWS and “Learning” from Lessons.

Some past Hydrometeorological projects have succeeded. In fact Lessons lave been identified that are necessary for successful projects and conversely many factors that tend to cause projects & systems to fail are also known. Its time to change how hydrometeorological projects are conducted. Donors and partners involved in hydtrometeorological modernization projects need to change how to build systems if sustainability is to be realized.

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