Uganda has installed a Floods Early Warning System to mitigate the floods and landslides which have claimed scores of lives in the Eastern region, particularly in areas bordering Mount Elgon.
The surveillance technology, which was commissioned on 22 September, is an effort from Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). According to the Director of UCC, the installation of the system is a new dawn for the population around the Butaleja District and the larger Mt. Elgon region in general.
For many years, Butaleja district had been ravaged by the persistent floods due to its location in basin area and thereby receiving a lot off runoff water from the Wanale hills, Bududa hills, and the imposing Mt Elgon. The surrounding raised topography also implies that the area receives a lot of relief rainfall. On a positive note, the flooding and high rainfall supports the extensive rice growing in the area.
Hundreds have perished as a result of the landslides and floods in the area with the worst being reported in 2010 which left over 250 dead and displaced thousands.
The $300,000 (UGX780m) System, which uses a siren notification system to warn people about raising water levels, comprises a sensor that is placed in the river, a solar powered siren adjacent to the river and a Control Centre positioned at the district headquarters. The computers are a backup for monitoring the performance of the siren system.
Once the water levels reach a certain point on the sensor, a signal is activated alerting the communities to shift to safer grounds. The siren, with a voice radius of five kilometres, is then followed with guiding messages from the operator at the Control Centre on what the next course of action is.
Located at Namulo Bridge on River Manafwa in Himuntu Subcounty, Butaleja District, the system is a joint venture between the Government of Uganda and ITU, and is in line with Uganda’s Disaster Preparedness Policy. Nationally, the project is being implemented by Butaleja District and the Ministries of Disaster Preparedness (Office of the Prime Minister), UCC (Information and Communications Technology – MoICT), and Water and Environment, with technical support from the International Telecommunications Union.
Dubbed Endabusi (“the one that warns” in the Lunyole dialect), the project has generated excitement and mixed reactions among the local populace. During a recent sensitization campaign, a few people opined that EWS would cause rainfall shortage, while others view it as an espionage/surveillance gadget, and to some, it’s an electricity-generation plant.
While the system will not end the floods, it will minimise the endemic loss of life and property. This will be a big relief to the people of Butaleja District who, for many years, have been ravaged by the persistent floods especially from the surrounding hills. The area receives a lot of relief rainfall because of its topography.
source: BizTech Africa