15 June 2021, Georgetown, Guyana - The current floods situation in Guyana are representative of a recurring threat to the country’s development. Prone to heavy rains leading to overflowing of its rivers, Guyana’s agricultural sector is constantly affected disaster related damages, and the local communities are vulnerable to food insecurity because of the damages to land, assets and infrastructure.

Developing climate resilience and mainstreaming gender-responsive policies is therefore key to ensuring sustainable economic growth, food security, and reducing poverty. It is to this end that the National Flood Forecasting System (NFFS) was developed and designed for the prediction of extreme flood events and is currently being tested in the operations of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) Hydrometeorological Service (Hydromet).

This interactive platform aims to enhance disaster resilience, with a particular focus on flood-prone communities, using numerical weather prediction models and a nationwide hydrological model. The NFFS is also linked to a two-dimensional hydraulic model piloted in four of the vulnerable flood-prone communities. As a result, the development of flood maps for these communities will be possible for extreme flood events.

The nation-wide flood forecasting system was developed by the Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in close collaboration with the International Centre for Environmental Monitoring (CIMA) Research Foundation and Hydromet. The NFFS was implemented to support Hydromet’s flood forecasting daily practices and decision making in flood preparedness and response. This activity was complemented with the delivery of capacity development activities to ensure the sustainability of the system but also to provide key stakeholders with knowledge about Geospatial Information Technology (GIT) use for Flood Risk Management  (see related links for more information).

"As in many countries, the lack of datasets over Guyana made the implementation of the FFS challenging. However, using satellite data provided us with a good basis for the flood forecasting chain development. This is a great opportunity for Guyana to enhance the tools used for daily operations, support preparedness and further develop the flood forecasting practices." Imra Hodzic, Research associate, Disaster Risk Management and Climate Resilience Section, UNOSAT

On Thursday 15 June, an official ceremony was held to mark the closing of the project “Development of Guyana National Flood Early Warning System (NFEWS)“. This project was a part of a greater 3-year initiative  “Strengthening Disaster Management Capacity of Women in Guyana and Dominica”, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and funded by the Government of Japan.

“The current floods have devastated significant portions of farmlands, killed livestock, damaged private and public infrastructure and is likely to have severe social and public health impacts that are still to be fully assessed. It is in this context that the development of a National Flood Early Warning System becomes extremely relevant to the development of Guyana.” Honorable Zulfikar Mustapha Minister of Agriculture of Guyana, during the closing ceremony on June 15th, 2021

During the closing ceremony, all parties represented emphasized the importance of a NFFS and saluted the successful collaboration and delivery of the initiative, including Honorable Zulfikar Mustapha Minister of Agriculture of Guyana, His Excellency Tatsuo Hirayama, Ambassador of Japan to the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and Mr. Lauro Rossi, Director of Early Warning Programme at CIMA Research Foundation.

“This project represents a real benchmark for UNOSAT. This is one of the most important results of a long journey started several years ago to boost and improve interactions between climate service providers and those who make use of the services, in order to increase the uptake and effective use of climate information and early warning mechanisms especially in flood prone countries.” Einar Bjørgo, Director of UNOSAT

After the testing period, the NFFS will be fully operational and will provide support for timely warnings for extreme flooding events. During the current rainy season in Guyana and the testing period, UNOSAT will continue supporting Hydromet in close collaboration with. UNOSAT’s Rapid Mapping service will also keep monitoring and providing Guyana’s authorities with satellite-detected flood analysis for the on-going floods affecting the country and proclaimed as national disaster and crisis by the President of Guyana, Dr Irfaan Ali, on June 10th, 2021.

“On the 4th of June, the UNOSAT rapid mapping service was activated by the World Food Programme (WFP) to support the Government of Guyana with satellite imagery analysis for the extensive floods across the country. The NFFS has been extremely useful to define our high-resolution satellite imagery acquisition plan and to coordinate with the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) in charge of flood response operations.“ Luca Dell’Oro, Senior Specialist, Disaster Risk Management and Climate Resilience Section, UNOSAT

For more information, please contact unosat@unitar.org and follow @UNOSAT.

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