July 10, 2012 00:00 By Pratch Rujivanarom The Nation
Flash floods and landslides cause major problems for people living near mountains in Chiang Mai every year - but things may be set to get better thanks to a new warning system installed by the National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (NECTEC).
Natural disasters have become more severe in recent years due to deforestation and an increasing population. But NECTEC hopes 243 warning devices it has installed across Chiang Mai can now help mitigate disasters – and prevent lives being lost or property damage.
NECTEC researcher Kongphan Mungprathepthavorn said the devices will keep tabs on how much rain falls and as soon as this goes beyond 100 millilitres, the device will warn villagers in the area – by sending an automatic SMS – so they have more time to prepare.
“During the rainy season, these devices will provide data every 15 minutes. Each has been located in high-risk areas and warnings will be sent out to villages downstream if there is heavy rain in the mountains. These devices use solar energy to generate power and can function without any sunlight for more than 20 days,” Kongphan explained.
Information from the devices is not only used for flash flood and landslide warnings in nearby areas. He said they could also predict water levels to prevent flooding in the Chao Praya River Basin.
Wibul Sanyuanpong, director-general of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, said that before the warning devices were installed, people living in high-risk zones used a rain gauge and traditional weather forecast systems, which were not accurate enough.
“The new warning devices will allow people to prepare for flash floods in a more effective manner. Our department has not just installed the warning system, it has also trained volunteers to help villagers once an alarm goes off,” Wibul said.
Navi Kammeru, Mae Pang district Moo 5 village head, said he was glad the warning devices had been installed, because in 2006 his village was hit by a major flash flood, which killed two people and destroyed 20 houses.
“At that time, we did not have any warning system before the floods hit the village, but now we have a warning system to rely on and don’t have to fear the same tragedy anymore,” Navi said.
However, the project still faces some problems. For instance, Doi Pui Mong Village disaster prevention volunteer Supoth Saelee said his village still lacked rescue equipment and that in times of emergency, they would still need help from outside.
“I think installing the new flash flood warning device is a good measure to protect people, but proper equipment is still important for saving people’s lives,” Supoth said.