21 September 2017

Ethiopia: Hydromet Services for Climate Resilient Economy

As an advocate of climate resilient green economy and a country with prolonged experience of natural disasters such as drought, Ethiopia more than ever needs effective and state-of-the-art hydromet system.

Effective hydrological and meteorological services, known collectively as hydromet, provide real-time weather, water, early warning, and climate information and data critically needed for growth and sustainable climate-resilient development.

Using these services, communities can be warned early to evacuate areas when disasters hit, businesses can make effective water-related decisions that affect their industry, and government agencies can effectively tackle climate change based on the latest information, according to the World Bank Group.

In fact, metrological and hydrological data and information systems cut across almost all Sustainable Development Goal areas. "In the era of climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, metrological and hydrological information systems play paramount role beyond the traditional domains," said Dr. Seleshi Bekele, Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity during the recent African Ministerial Council on Meteorology (AMCOMET), Africa Hydromet Forum 2017.

Ethiopia sees strong hydromet services and climate information systems as instrumental in achieving its climate resilient economy. Besides disaster prevention and preparedness, the services are used for designing clean water supply, hydropower and irrigation projects.

"We need to invest more to enhance the coverage, reliability and robustness of the data and information system," Dr. Seleshi told the media on the occasion.

"For instance, two weeks ago because of the [untimely] heavy rain, the Awash River posed a flooding threat and we used the Koka reservoirs to prevent casualties based on metrology and hydrology information," the Minister said.

"We have managed to avoid the risk. Had it not been for the forecast and precautionary measures taken, the flood would have affected various infrastructures including railway, houses, clean drinking water facilities and irrigation projects."

Independent national metrological services, river basin authorities, Directors of Hydrology and Basin Affairs at ministry are intensively working to develop modern data collection as well as analyzing, packaging and modeling systems.

Dula Shanko is Deputy Director General of the Ethiopian Metrology Agency. He tells The Ethiopian Herald that in addition to providing timely hydrometreology service to the society and policy makers, it is also salient to exchange such timely information with the global community.

The agency transmits weather information to the global community every three hours from 17 weather stations.

"We have to facilitate exchange of information with the world and neighboring countries. Because for instance, we cannot make studies on the Atlantic Ocean as it is not our territory," he says adding "But, the weather situation at Atlantic Ocean might have a huge effect on us. Hence, we also have to build a strong system of information exchange with the global community."

According to him, drought will always be here; hence the question is how to adapt to it. "The society and decision makers have to utilize the forecast properly," he says. "If it was not for the forecast and that we prepared well, the effect of the El Niño would have been catastrophic. But we managed to prevent death and other causalities."

Currently there are around 1300 and 234 manual and automatic weather stations across the nation respectively. "We have also radar which delivers information within 300 km radius. We also have Upper-air observations which assess weather conditions just above ground to heights of up to 30 km," he notes.

The agency's 11 branches in all states also deliver metrological information to various communities in their local languages. "We have been working to improve our accessibility to local communities and are planning to expand the stations this year. We will also install numerical weather forecast [centers] within every four km radius," he adds.

Hydrology and Water Quality Directorate (HWQD) at the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity is given with the responsibility to gather, analyze and interpret information about the country's vast water resources. "In many areas we collect information on river basins and reservoirs especially for irrigation, hydropower and clean drinking water projects. We also deliver information for disaster management initiatives, investors, researchers and the likes," says Semunesh Golla, HWQD Director.

Though still not satisfactory, the Directorate is trying its best to upgrade its capacity and deliver quality service. "The old manual system has been replaced with automation and telemetric systems around the world. We are also trying to adopt those technologies," she says.

"Effective forecast is a major instrument to adapt to climate change and we are working closely with other stakeholders such us metrology agency to build an effective forecast system in the country.

Hydrology is strongly affected by variability. "We have to build our technological, institutional and expertise capacity to adapt to this variability," she emphasizes. "We also need to raise the awareness of the society so that many people start to use hydromet services for their day to day lives. In turn, it is their feedback that prompt us to improve our services."

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