Massive overhauling required for Pakistan’s prevailing flood forecasting system


–International climate experts estimate Rs1.397 billion to refurbish PMD’s operational facilities

–‘Early warnings system for thunderstorms, floods, and flash floods ineffective without the overhauling’

LAHORE: Pakistan may not able to acquire monsoon monitoring capability following the lack of required skilled manpower and modern forecasting equipment besides adopting effective methodology with the existing facilities, international climate experts say.

International Hydro-Meteorological and Climate Services experts, currently on a 37-day visit to Pakistan during monsoon, told Pakistan Today that the country lacks the ability to erect Automatic Weather Station (AWS) despite the frequent flooding events which have increased more than three-fold for the last 25 years compared to the previous two decades. The massive overhauling and up gradation of Flood Forecasting Division (FFD) with five Regional Flood Forecasting Centers is needed, they recommended.

Referring to their preliminary assessment regarding Pakistan’s ability to cope up with climate change, they said early warnings system for extreme weather-related events such as thunderstorms, floods, and flash floods cannot be carried out without overhauling the operational facilities of Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD).

“In particular, overhauling should be extended to the forecasting for flash floods, analysis, and service delivery capabilities to provide guidance for agriculture, water resources and irrigation, disaster risk management, media, civil aviation, health and energy,” they mentioned.

Their assessment stressed that overhauling and core refurbishment of PMD’s operational facilities needed on an urgent basis that requires at least Rs1.397 billion. The refurbishment also includes the PMD operational facilities together with the Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics and FFD. An international engineering design and supervision firm may be engaged to support this activity.

The bulk of the activities include procurement and installation of goods such as monitoring equipment and ICT. “Because of the large level of investment in highly complex and technical infrastructure in building the setup, it is essential that effective manpower is required for the sustainability of the investment to ensure that the equipment/systems continue to provide their expected benefits throughout their design life,” the assessment added.

The evaluation points out that technical modernization of the observation networks is a vital activity to support the expansion and upgrade of the prioritised stations of the network, expansion of the Doppler radar network, restoration of upper air observations, installation of wind profilers, improvement of hydrological stations and systems, and expansion and re-equipment of the agro-meteorological network.

Pointing renewal of PMD data management, communication, and ICT system, their assessment mention that cannot be materialised without the modernisation of communication and computer equipment in addition of making and managing data systems for weather, climate, and hydrological data, including remote sensing data acquisition and processing.

The documents point out that without improvement of the weather forecasting process, including numerical weather prediction (NWP) system, access to global and regional NWP digital data and products cannot be maintained for implementation of real-time forecast process monitoring and verification, high-performance computers for implementation of now-casting and very-short-range forecasting systems, NWP calibration and post-processing, flood early warning system (FEWS), and establishment of standard operational procedures for weather forecasting.

Regarding improvement in the hydrological forecasting system that includes flood modeling system, the documents mentioned that it is necessary to provide access to global hydrological products, the implementation of real-time forecast evaluation, model verification, and calibration and post-processing systems and visualisation tools. The documents also said that all the above exercise needs Rs 9.135 billion to initiate the plan.

Their documents mentioned that several components are managed by various partners, however, there is a high risk that incompletion or nonperformance at one component can impact others, thus affecting the sustainability.

PMD needs autonomy and no separate funds should be allocated for equipment training; the provision should be made in the contractual requirement of the manufacturer installing the equipment for the whole project, it argued.