Bangladesh Plans to Launch Toll-free SMS Flood Warning — Global Issues

Farmers in Bangladesh would welcome an early warning system that doesn’t rely on smartphones. The authorities and invented an SMS service after terrible floods killed many people and destroyed crops. Credit: Rafiqul Islam / IPS
  • by Rafiqul Islam (dhaka)
  • Associated Press Service

“Flooding is very common in char areas during the monsoon. Even so, I planted jute seeds on coals. This year, the flood came to our locality too early, damaging my jute field,” he said.

Ziaur said his jute field was almost mature and could be harvested within a few weeks, but a sudden flood ruined it.

“I didn’t get the flood forecast in time, and that’s why I didn’t harvest the jute, this year it’s a big loss,” he said.

Like Zillur, many farmers lost their crops to the devastating floods that swept through the northeastern and northwestern regions of Bangladesh in June this year.

According to Bangladesh’s agriculture minister, Dr Abdur Razzaque, floods have damaged about 56,000 hectares of Aus rice (a type of rice) across the country this year.

The Flood Warning and Forecasting Center (FFWC) of the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) issues flood alerts and bulletins daily, but people living in remote and vulnerable areas are mostly affected. like not benefiting because they don’t have the right technology.

Under the digital flood warning and forecasting system introduced in 2021, the FFWC issues flood warnings to people living in flood-prone areas via ‘Google push notifications’ from three days up to three hours before the flood occurred.

To receive flood warnings, everyone needs an Android mobile phone. Notifications are sent to these devices via Google alerts between three days and three hours before the flood begins, depending on the system’s predictability.

BWDB, in partnership with tech giant Google and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Association, developed the system, which now operates in 55 districts of the country.

Sarder Udoy Raihan, a FFWC sub-engineer, said BWBD has flood data available and sends it to Google.

Google has improved its flood mapping by using its topographic data and sending ‘push flood notifications’ to people living in flood-prone areas.

While the system is useful, many people living in remote areas and flood-prone areas don’t have smartphones and internet, so they don’t receive digital flood warnings.

BWDB has decided to launch a free SMS service containing flood-related messages and information, BWDB officials said.

BWDB, a2i, Google, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have begun working together to access flood warnings and information on the doorsteps of people living in flooded areas of the land. water through the free mobile SMS service. This will help them take measures to protect their property before the flood hits.

FFWC executive engineer Arifuzzaman Bhuyan said negotiations continue with stakeholders, including the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC), to introduce the SMS service.

“The introduction of the SMS flood warning service depends on the BTRC because there are issues related to costs,” he said, and hopes that BWDB will be able to launch the SMS service within the next season.

Once the free SMS service is introduced, mobile phone users living in flood areas will be identified using their cell phone tower pings and SMS messages will be sent to them containing the information. River level rise and fall information, flood severity and nearest shelter details.

Raihan said it would be possible to send about 36 million SMS a year through mobile phone operators if flood warnings could be sent to people via SMS.

Sardar Mohammad Shah-Newaz, former director of the Flood Division at the Dhaka-based Institute of Water Modeling (IWM), said that if flood forecasts are not appropriately disseminated to people living in flood prone area it won’t help. .

“Almost all people in the country use mobile phones. If flood warnings can reach people living in flood zones through free SMS on their mobile phones, they will be able to take precautions to save their property and minimize damage. for this incident,” he said.

Proposing to automate the flood forecasting system in Bangladesh, Shah-Newaz said BWDB could introduce an SMS service and it will launch the service as soon as possible.

Flooding is a common phenomenon in Bangladesh. During each monsoon, floods hit different parts of the country, causing great loss of life and property.

Due to the heavy rainfall upstream in the northeastern states of India, Bangladesh experienced devastating flooding in the northwestern districts and Sylhet region, stranding millions of people and triggering a human crisis. religion.

According to the General Department of Health (DGHS), the death toll from floods this year has reached 123 people across the country. Total deaths were recorded between May 17 and July 17, 2022.

Of the total deaths, 69 people died in Sylhet, while 41 were in Mymensingh, 12 in Rangpur and one in Dhaka.

Report of the United Nations Office IPS

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© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service

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