The Mekong River Commission yesterday announced new efforts to address natural disasters in the region, including a decision to upgrade and rename the Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Centre to the Regional Flood and Drought Management Centre.
The announcement followed a two-day bi-annual meeting, which concluded in Vietnam’s Vung Tau city yesterday.
According to a press release, the MRC’s governing Joint Committee has decided to integrate drought monitoring and management functions into the organisation’s flood forecasting work.
It said the decision will see the MRC’s Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Centre take on a new name – the Regional Flood and Drought Management Centre. It added that the RFDMC will still operate in Phnom Penh.
“The improved centre aims to provide faster and accurate flood and drought forecasting and warning information throughout the year to communities potentially affected by rapid fluctuations in water levels and more extreme floods and droughts,” the release said.
Te Navuth, permanent vice chairman of the Cambodia National Mekong Committee, yesterday said that the centre has not been sufficiently resourced.
Mr Navuth said the centre had to deal with staff absences while managing on-the-job training in what is a highly specialised field.
He noted that relationships between MRC member countries and the centre are critical to strengthening capacity, building a pool of qualified human resources, and improving systems.
“Member countries need to identify what they want from a regional flood and drought forecasting centre and resource it accordingly,” Mr Navuth said. “At present, the use of outdated technology, insufficient data access to improve accuracy and a lack of human resource capacity all need to be addressed.”
MRC Joint Committee chairman Le Duc Trung said that for this year, extreme weather events due to climate change require the MRC to be more flexible and responsive.
“Our centre will be the answer, but it needs to be equipped with advanced technologies and appropriate capacities to perform effectively,” Mr Le said.
The centre first began operations in 2004. During flood season, the centre provided forecasts from key stations along the Mekong river.
The MRC also conducts flash flood guidance over the lower Mekong basin based on satellite rainfall estimates. It provides daily flood monitoring during the wet season and weekly river monitoring during the dry season.
According to the MRC, the Joint Committee also noted its appreciation of the MRC Secretariat’s proposal to reinvigorate the MRC data and information system.
An Pich Hatda, chief executive officer of the MRC Secretariat, said its primary goal is to provide faster reactions to address disasters.