Thursday, June 28, 2012

‘Project Noah’ eyed to improve flood monitoring system in PH

By Anna Valmero

MAKATI CITY, METRO MANILA—The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) inked an agreement with Smart Communications for the implementation of a flood monitoring system covering 18 major river basins nationwide.

For “Project Noah,” Smart and sister firm Sun Cellular have agreed to let the DOST install automated rain gauges in 600 of their cell sites in the target river basin systems.

“Aside from installing rain gauges in our network infrastructures across the country, our network services will help transmit pertinent weather data for analysis and formulation of DOST’s grand flood warning system,” said Smart spokesman Mon Isberto.

The official added that Smart’s cellular network was able to connect families even during the country’s worst disasters.

Earlier, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has completed the installation of 63 automatic rain gauges (ARGs) in Smart cellular network sites nationwide under a separate co-location agreement in 2011.

The weather bureau selected key sites all over the country, starting with Montalban in Rizal province, which was one of the areas heavily damaged by Typhoon Ondoy in 2009.

PAGASA recently inaugurated one of these rain gauges in Mindanao, which suffered in a massive flooding when Typhoon Sendong struck the region last year.

“With the use of ARGs and other equipment, which are planned to be part of one weather monitoring system, a repeat of that tragic event when Sendong killed hundreds in Mindanao will be prevented,” said PAGASA administrator Nathaniel Servando.

Last year, the DOST in Western Visayas region and Smart also installed ARGs in the most disaster-prone areas of Iloilo City, completing the ARG-installation project in Western Visayas.

Together with the Corporate Network for Disaster Response (CNDR), Smart is also providing trainings to local officials of Marikina, Dumaguete, Bacolod and Cagayan De Oro, helping them formulate contingency plans and organize flood drills.

To complement these trainings, Smart is promoting the use of its Infoboard SMS community broadcast system to empower communities by gathering and sending weather and disaster reports across the community.

This World Bank-funded project implemented through the help of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) is a model that Smart would like to replicate in other areas of the country.

“We are using our experience in past disasters to help promote better community preparedness.

Because at the end of the day, the first people who will help you out in times of disasters are your neighbors,” Isberto said.