News that eastern Uganda has received a Shs870 million flood surveillance and early warning system (EWS) is well-timed. Computer-switched sirens can now sound alarms to warn people about rising water levels, once it hits the danger mark. The alarms warn affected communities to move away quickly to safer grounds. The siren and operator’s guide messages can be heard within a radius of five kilometres and ensure timely evacuation.
This initiative should lessen current fears of disaster of floods in the Mount Elgon region. Already, River Manafwa has burst its banks, displaced 1,400 families in Bulambuli and another 1,294 households in Butaleja District, according to Uganda Red Cross Society.
But what is crucial is for Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), as one of the key stakeholders, to make it very clear to the residents that the system will not stop but only minimise impact of floods – loss of lives and property, among others.
This requires the guarantors of the project to work tirelessly to educate communities and allay their fear and misconception of EWS, referred to as endabusi (the one that warns).
Creating awareness is important because some community members already have misconceptions about EWS. As UCC cited, some residents already fear the system will stop rainfall, while others think it is a spyware. Many more think it is meant to generate power or electricity.
What the ministries of Disaster Preparedness, Water and Environment, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as well as district leaders must do is to continuously educate the area residents on the benefits of EWS. The stakeholders should have given more time to raise awareness to create a broad buy-in and ownership among the residents. Campaigns to allay such fears should have gone on for more than the two weeks allowed ahead of the ribbon-cutting to commission the project by ICT minister John Nasasira.
Equally important is the news that this EWS will be replicated in flood-prone Kasese District. Also crucial is the plan by the joint disaster agencies instituting EWS for landslides early next year. This should prove very useful as it will forewarn of earth movements and cracks six months ahead of occurrence.
These two systems, as UCC’s communications director Fred Otunu says, guarantees early warning against floods by at least two days and foretell landslides by nearly six months. These ensure proactive steps are taken to lessen and manage floods and landslides. The two new initiatives also underline the key roles ICTs now play, not only as basic communication tools, but as tools to mitigate and manage disasters.
Make the early warning system work to save Butaleja District and Mount Elgon region.
The issue: Implementing early warning systems.
Our view: Creating awareness is important because some community members already have misconceptions about EWS.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor