Piloting Forecast-based Action in Nepal

Since 2018, Danish Red Cross has been supporting Nepal Red Cross Society, with technical input from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center, to pilot Forecast-based Action related to riverine floods in western Nepal, in the monsoon seasons of 2018, 2019 and 2020.

This initiative has been supported by the Danish International Development Agency from the start and as part of the Enhance Community Resilience project in 2019-2020.

Building on this experience, Danish Red Cross and Nepal Red Cross Society continue, with the support of the Climate Center, to scale up FbA in Nepal to other river basins and are working on the development of an Early Action Protocol to access funds from IFRC’s Disaster Relief and Emergency Fund to continue to support these initiatives.

By piloting Forcast-based Action in Nepal, Danish Red Cross and Nepal Red Cross Society seek to contribute to the development of a FbA approach in the country, building from lessons learned collected from experiences in the field and to establish a better understanding of the FbA concept within the NRCS team at headquarters and throughout the district of Bardiya (both for NRCS and local authorities), to support future initiatives for anticipatory action.

Key facts

Start/end date     

2018 - 2020

Hazards covered    

Riverine floods

Regions covered    

1 Province (Province 5)

1 district (Bardiya)

3 Municipalities located in the Babai river basin (Gulariya, Barabardiya, Thakurbaba), including 18 flood exposed wards/areas

Early action sectors     

Shelter | PGI | WASH | Food

Activations

Simulation in October 2019 / not triggered yet

Population reached during activation

Pilots target a maximum of 500 households (approx. 25,000 people)

Implementing partners   

Nepal Red Cross Society, Danish Red Cross

Technical partners

Technical partner:

Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center

Other stakeholders involved:

Municipalities and wards in the target areas 

Anticipation in practice: Project description

Recurrent disasters such as annual floods in the southern area of Nepal (Terai) result in significant losses of lives, livelihoods, health and of economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets. In Terai floods 2017 alone, over 170 people were reported dead or missing and over 1,7 million people were affected including over 460,000 people displaced.

While NRCS overall responds relatively well to disasters (especially in districts with preparedness projects), usually no early / immediate preparedness actions are taken (e.g. preparation of adequate evacuation facilities, early warning, early action/timely evacuation of people and assets, sufficient pre-stock of NFIs, preparation to multi-purpose cash transfers and deployment and orientation of volunteers), even in areas with functional Early Warning System.

There is a strong logic to acting in anticipation to floods in the Terai region, primarily because road access to communities is immediately compromised during flood events.

NRCS Bardiya District Chapter’s staff and volunteers often expressed frustration with having to “sit on their hands” while affected populations are inaccessible. Also, in previous years of extreme flooding, NRCS has had to employ expensive strategies to provide support to desperate people, such as the use of helicopters to air drop food to persons stranded on their roofs. As such, it is expected that a well developed and implemented FbA project for an extreme event would have a favourable cost-benefit ratio as opposed to action only in a response capacity.

Forecast-based Action was first piloted in Nepal by NRCS in 2018 with an innovation project targeting a community of 80 households living near the River Babai, in Bardiya district, in mid-west of Nepal. The area suffers flood damage every year during the monsoon season; in the floods of 2017, just over 100,000 people were affected in this area.

The 2018 FbA project included initial awareness-raising of local authorities and NRCS district chapter on the FbA approach, desk planning as well as fieldwork such as mapping alternative access routes to affected areas and confirming evacuation sites.

In 2019, a new FbA project was piloted in the same Babai River basin, applying a new approach recommended by the Red Cross Climate Center after a feasibility study conducted on the lessons learned from the 2018 project. The 2019 project targeted all 18 Wards at risk of floods in the Babai River basin area, with a potential to support up to 500 most vulnerable households, depending on the extent of the disaster. In preparation for potential floods and early actions, NRCS collected in-depth information on the situation in those communities by profiling households and mapping the accessibility, risks, evacuation routes and sites, and emergency equipment suppliers. In addition to the data collection, local community volunteers and authorities were trained on FbA, first aid, setting up emergency shelters, and constructing temporary toilets.

The developed approach has two-staged trigger; a readiness trigger (7 days) which activates the preparations for the pre-planned activities, and an activation trigger (24 hours), which launches the early actions.

The readiness trigger was actually exceeded on 13th of July 2019. However, the activation trigger was not reached in monsoon 2019 in the Babai region even though the floods hit hard in other parts of Nepal. Instead of the actual early actions, a simulation exercise was organized in September 2019 to test the system and refine the approach accordingly for the upcoming years.

NRCS also collected data in two other river basins, Rapti and Karnali rivers, to plan a potential expansion of the FbA pilots to eventually cover a total of 72 Wards in 14 municipalities of four districts in three river basins.

These pilots are conducted in close collaboration with national and local government authorities.

Lessons Learnt

The FbA approach of DRC and NRCS in Nepal has been continuously adjusted since the first pilot in 2018, based on the 2019 feasibility studies’ recommendations; the lessons learned of the pilot projects; and secondary data collected and analyzed with technical support of the Climate Center about past floods, risks and vulnerabilities in the district overall and more specifically in the Babai river basin, which is most prone to heavy floods.

One of the major adjustments was to take a different approach in terms of targeting, by considering all 18 target wards of 3 municipalities located in the Babai river basin and exposed to floods as potential areas of intervention, rather than a pre-determined specific area and group of households in the targeted basin. Eventually, once the minus 7-day readiness trigger is hit, the project team and District Chapter will work together with the local authorities and committees to select the exact community(ies) to support, based on where the highest risk is indicated at the time of the trigger.

Contact

Anne-Sophie Pétri

Danish Red Cross Programme Manager: anpet@rodekors.dk

Manish Dhungel

Danish Red Cross Programme Coordinator: manish.dhungel@rodekors.dk

Niru Pradhan

Nepal Red Cross Society Programme Coordinator: niru.pradhan@nrcs.org