Geo-hazard maps made ‘useless’ by climate change

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    CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – Weather experts and disaster management officials here have pointed out that unusual weather patterns in the recent years have rendered government-produced geo-hazard maps useless.

    Engineer Lulu Alingcastre, head of the Provincial Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Monitoring Office (PDRRMO), noted that “only Pampanga’s first district is spared from severe flooding.”

    She said that recent unusual floods in the province indicate that about 205,500 families or some 880,520 persons in Pampanga could now be classified as living in flood-endangered areas.

    “We can’t rely anymore on the hazard maps because areas not identified there as flood-prone are now being reached by floodwaters,” she noted in an interview during a forum on climate and the situation at the Pampanga river basin held here recently.

    Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) senior weather specialist Hilton Hernando also noted unusual weather patterns that he attributed to worldwide climate change.

    “That is why despite our forecast using as baseline weather records from 1971 to 2000 is dovetailed with the reminder that updates will be made as soon as new developments become available,” he said in an interview.

    He noted that flooding in the country is affected by a combination of factors, including land subsidence, rising sea level and unusually heavy rains.

    Alingcastre said the provincial government has continued to look for vacant government lands in higher areas, particularly in Sta. Lucia in Magalang and Pandacaqui in Mexico for the construction of permanent evacuation centers where families in flooded areas could be brought for temporary stay, instead of using school rooms.

    PDRRMC officials, however, have expressed hope that the government’s new Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) would provide alternative to outdated hazard maps.

    Project NOAH is the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) response to the call of Pres. Aquino for a “more accurate, integrated, and responsive disaster prevention and mitigation system, especially in high-risk areas throughout the Philippines.”

    The project harnesses technologies and management services for disaster risk reduction activities offered by the DOST through the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), PAGASA, and the DOST-Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), in partnership with the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences and the UP College of Engineering.

    The project includes the distribution of hydrometeorological devices in hard-hit areas in the Philippines (Hydromet).

    This covers the installation of 600 automated rain gauges (ARG) and 400 water level monitoring stations (WLMS) along the country’s 18 major river basins (RBs) by December 2013 to provide a better picture of the country’s surface water in relation to flooding.

    The project also covers the so-called Disaster Risk Exposure Assessment for Mitigation–Light Detection and Ranging (DREAM-LIDAR) project which aims to produce more accurate flood inundation and hazard maps in 3D for the country’s flood-prone and major river systems and watersheds.

    It also includes the completion of Coastal Hazards and Storm Surge Assessment and Mitigation (CHASSAM) to be finished by December 2014, that will generate wave surge, wave refraction, and coastal circulation models to understand and recommend solutions for coastal erosion.

    Project NOAH also covers the completion of the Flood Information Network (FloodNET) project for timely and accurate information for flood early warning systems, as well as the Landslide Sensors Development Project which is a low-cost, locally developed, sensor-based early monitoring and warning system for landslides, slope failures, and debris flow.

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