Only about 40 percent of WMO members provide flash flood forecasting, and one third provide drought forecasting – often not reaching all people of the country. This needs to improve in order to achieve the UN Early Warnings for All initiative and there needs to be a concerted effort towards a global water information system.
WMO Secretary-General Prof Petteri Taalas told an international conference in Japan that the overall success of an early warning system ultimately depends on its ability to translate warnings, and particularly impact-based forecasts, into prevention and mitigation measures for all affected people, including hard-to-reach communities.
Integrated flood and drought management – rather than patchy emergency driven responses is vital, as is a stronger monitoring network.
“There is a particular need to develop capabilities at the regional, national, river-basin and community level,” said Prof. Taalas. “Collaboration is key across all sectors, and users,” he said in a keynote address to International Conference on Flood Management, which is held every three years.
The conference is an important opportunity for interaction on flood issues. It took place just one month before the UN 2023 Water Conference, which will be the first UN Water Conference since 1977.
“A global water information system, one of the game changers of the March UN Water Conference in New York is a solution to strengthen not only the information base we need to reduce vulnerability but also the solidarity that will make us more resilient, said UN General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi,
The conference hosted a High-level Symposium on “Integrated Water Cycle Management in the post-COVID-19 era” to compile collective messages from the flood community to submit to the UN Water Conference.
“COVID has taught us that the pandemic had a significant impact on flood warning systems,” said UN General Assembly President. Sixty per cent of the worlds national hydrological services had issues in measuring the data needed to calibrate and validate flood forecasting systems, he said.
“We need to innovate our national and regional systems to make sure we are less vulnerable against external shocks, be these pandemic related, financial or societal. At the national scale, it is essential to analyze and rethink our policy frameworks. We can only be less vulnerable and more resilient if we make sure that climate and water related policies are integrated,” he said.
This is one of the underlying principles of the Water and Climate Coalition, which is spearheaded by WMO.
Prof Taalas presented the Early Warnings for All Initiative at a private meeting with Emperor Naruhito, who just published a book on water and history from the Japanese perspective and showed a key interest in water management and floods and droughts. Emperor Naruhito voiced his support to strengthening of the collaboration with Japan through the Kumamoto Initiative.
Prof Taalas also had meetings with the leadership of the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the Development Cooperation Agency (JICA) at the new premisses of the JMA.
Japan is at the fore of improving forecasting for hydro-meteorological hazards and geo-hazards and has indicated tthat it will play a significant role in the Early Warnings for All Initiative.