Preparing for floods

Coping with massive flooding followed by periods of drought

Communities in some areas face the regular threat of destructive climatic events. The devastation caused by severe flooding leaves families destitute. It destroys homes, cultivated land, stored food, livestock and even human life.

The food shortages that ensue are a further threat, along with the disease ridden stagnant waters that shroud the area.

Along with affected communities, Practical Action identify and address the urgent issues. Then appropriate training and technologies are introduced in order for families to dramatically lessen the impact of the inevitable.

Early warning system saves lives in monsoon-hit Nepal

Bardiya, Nepal, 3 July 2013: The monsoon in Nepal earlier this year was horrific and left thousands of people homeless in Darchula district. But when unusually severe monsoon rain caused flooding last month, everyone was prepared for flooding due to a new early warning system.

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The following are all in use, helping communities to prepare for floods and therefore reducing the impact:

  • Construction of dykes to channel water away from vulnerable communities
  • Protective structures called Spurs are made of local stones, tightly packed together in ‘gabion’ wire boxes, extend out into the river, altering the pace and direction of its flow. Spurs can be locally and easily maintained, and on average can act as a form of flood defence for around 7-8 years.
  • A watch tower means villagerscan see the waters rising to dangerous levels. They are able to sound a siren which can be heard up to 3.2kms away. This also means that neighbouring villagers can come to help.
  • Rain/flood gauges to monitor potential risk.
  • A bridge to create an escape route for the community at risk.
  • Emergency shelters with toilets and clean water pumpsare built on higher ground. There are extra rooms to give women privacy. Outside of monsoon season, the shelter can be used as a school, so the facilities can be made good use of all year round.

These give increased security to vulnerable communities while contributing to the protection of marginal farm land and dwellings. Emergency materials, including life jackets and life boats, are also provided to the communities.

Nirmala Pokharel

Nirmala Pokharel, 38 speaks about her experience of the floods in July 2002 when 353 houses were lost in one night:

“The flood waters came at midnight.. It was pitch black so we couldn’t see anything. We were terrified and didn’t know where to go. I remember the lightening – which meant everything lit up just for a moment and I could see the devastation around me."

"The rain came into my house. In the end I was rescued by someone that came for me in a boat but it was so frightening. I lost every-thing that night – my land, my cattle, my crops, my home. In monsoon time the temperatures are much higher now than they used to be – I am sure of that."

"And when the rains come, they come more heavily. I am extremely happy to be working with Practical Action to be helping my community to prepare for these floods. For me, it’s like how a mother helps her new born child – caring and looking after it. It’s all about saving lives there is nothing more important than that”.

Chitwan district, Nepal

In order to address the adverse impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities, Practical Action Nepal, with support from Allachy Trust UK, has been working in Chitwan district by identifying and developing adaptation and coping strategies.

Our approach is holistic, with a strong emphasis on community participation, for conservation and development. It links the impacts of climate change with the promotion of improved livelihood options such as infrastructures, conservation of water sources and forests.

During the last year, the project has installed a meteorological station in the village to record weather data and to monitor the climatic conditions of the area. Through training, workshops and exposure tours it also enhanced the capacity of community members in raising improved breeds of goats, sloping agricultural land technology (SALT), vegetable farming and animal health. The community now has better understanding about community forest management, disaster preparedness, climate change and its adverse impacts, and alternative opportunities for income generation.

Altogether 85 households received vegetable seeds, improved breeds of goats and fruit tree seedlings as support. Practical Action also supported work to improve irrigation systems and protect riverbanks, to mitigate the impacts of floods and utilise the scarce resources in a sustainable way.

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Read more about our flood early warning work in Nepal, strengthening the capacity of communities to manage early warning systems to reduce the impacts of floods, including the Scaling-up Early Warning Systems in Nepal (SEWIN) project.

Practical Action has worked with communities in Bangladesh to develop simple and affordable flood-resistant housing.

We have also worked on a project to improve the capacity of  communities and local institutions in Peru to respond to flooding emergencies.

Flood Resistant Housing

Bangladesh has regular floods putting people at risk. This brief describes some flood resistant housing options.


Spurs and Dykes for Flood Protection

Spurs and dykes are structures that protect river banks and contain flood waters. They can be built by communities using stones and wire.

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