‘Noah’ faces challenge ‘of biblical proportions’
It’s a public-private partnership to address a challenge “of biblical proportions.”
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has partnered with telecommunications firms Smart Communications Inc. and Sun Cellular, both PLDT mobile phone subsidiaries, to boost its multibillion-peso Project Noah, a two-year flood forecasting and warning system.
Recalling the biblical character Noah, who warned his villagemates of the coming of a great flood, DOST’s Noah means Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards program.
Automated rain gauges
Under a memorandum of understanding signed on Friday by the DOST and the telecommunications firms, the government science agency will install a total of 600 automated rain gauges in strategic cell sites of the two networks in the country’s 18 major river systems for enhanced flood monitoring within two years.
“This is a challenge of biblical proportions … Weather management is one of the big beneficiaries of technology. The test is how this translates to the benefit of the people,” said Sun Cellular president and CEO Orlando Vea.
“We will co-locate rain gauges with the cell sites and have accurate and timely rainfall prediction—and also actual rainfall [measurement] for the entire country in order for us to predict flooding a lot better than we have before,” said CP David of the University of the Philippines Institute of Environmental Sciences and Meteorology, one of the agencies at the lead of the project.
Science Secretary Mario Montejo said the system would first be installed in six priority areas by July of this year. These include areas recently hit by flooding, including Marikina City, Bicol, Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan City and the provinces of Pampanga and Pangasinan.
The next nine would be installed by December while three more would be installed in June 2013, Montejo said.
“The instruction of the President is that all communities that have experienced flooding would be covered,” said Montejo in an interview after signing ceremonies in Makati City on Friday.
Project NOAH is the DOST’s response to President Aquino’s directive last December for the weather bureau to provide more accurate and timely rain forecasting and flood warning systems to communities within six hours to prevent heavy casualties.
Malacañang released P1.6 billion for the acquisition of the Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) system, which can chart a detailed, higher resolution mapping of the country’s topography for more accurate flood simulation. The President also allocated P150 million for the acquisition of water-level sensors, Montejo said.
Noah aims to enhance rain and flood forecasting through better data collection flow: from satellites, which can read the weather five days ahead, to Doppler radars, which track down weather systems and provide warnings 24 hours ahead, down to rain gauges, which provide localized data and warnings six hours before rains or flooding.
“The grand plan is to get all efforts combined. In disaster preparedness, we need all the minds and hands we can get,” said Mahar Lagmay of the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Sciences, also among those at the lead of the Noah project.
Ramon Isberto, public affairs chief at Smart, said the firm is also looking at integrating localized SMS (text message) warnings into Noah so communities can receive immediate information from verified sources.
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