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Crowdsourcing information for early warnings that can save lives and property during flash-floods.



The problem: The wetlands covering a vast area in the northeastern part of Bangladesh is a flash flood zone. Every year flash floods claim lives, cause huge financial losses, destroying crops and livestock that drive thousands of families deeper into poverty. The forecasting system used by the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre of Bangladesh cannot provide early warnings to  affected communities who rarely have enough time to seek high ground. Therefore, flood forecasting which allows enough lead time for people to actually respond to the imminent disaster is a minimum requisite for saving lives and livelihoods of vulnerable communities especially the poor. 

The solution: The main objective is to develop a localised warning system that addresses the specific needs of the flash flood prone communities that are living along the rivers.  Accuracy, comprehensibility and access to localised information in real time are critical elements.

The means: Improving the effectiveness of flood warning and disaster response systems is not simply a technical problem, but also one of human communication. We have initiated user centered design thinking to develop a prototype of a flash flood warning message that will be delivered in the local language through mobile technology. We are designing an appropriate interface and engagement methodology which encourages and engages these vulnerable people to participate in crowdsourced disaster mapping. We are working with the disaster warning and response organisations to integrate these innovations into existing platforms so we can achieve impact at scale.

The impact: The communities living along the river will have enough lead time (maximum of 36 hours) from the moment the flash flood hits the upstream communities. They could use it to save their household assets, relocate cattle to a safer ground, or even harvest standing crop (mainly downstream communities) minimising loss to their livelihoods.

Category of the action


What actions do you propose?

Physical actions will include quick response to flash flood early warning in terms of safeguarding assets especially harvesting standing crops in terms of an untimely flash flood.

Who will take these actions?

  • Communities that are affected by flash floods and will be the main actors in providing the early warning messages as well as responding to the early warning by safeguarding their lives and livelihoods.
  • Government departments such as Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Disaster Management Information Network, Bangladesh Water Development Board and the Flood Forecasting and Early Warning Centre to help them improve their efficiency and effectiveness in the area of Disaster Risk Management.
  • Non-governmental, not for profit organizations such as the Centre for Environmental and Information Services and universities in the field of environmental mapping and data. Or in community based design and participatory approaches to development.
  • Traditional donor base and those interested in disaster risk reduction that presently support disaster programing in Bangladesh to fund actions related to crowd sourcing early warning.
  • And finally cell phone companies who are keen to display their social responsibility and gain marketing edges. They will be responsible for relaying the messages from community members to a larger group of people either affected by the flash flood or providing services in the wake of a flash flood.

Where will these actions be taken?

The action will take place in Bangladesh, especially in the northeastern part of the country which is affected by flash floods.

The primary action will take place in the north eastern part of Bangladesh which is remote and has extremely poor rural communities. Secondary actions will take place in the capital city of Dhaka where the technology will be developed, maintained and follow up so its an iterative prototype that can eventually be scaled.

What are other key benefits?

The success of crowdsourcing early warning will mainly help the poor and vulnerable communities that live on the banks of rivers, prone to flash floods. It will help the authorities in their ability to disseminate early warning as well as readiness to respond in case of excessive damage of life and livelihoods following a flash flood.

What are the proposal’s costs?

Information not collated

Time line

Over the short term, the action will involve early warnings and crowdsourcing at the local level. Over the years , this technology can be used to make flood forecasting even more robust by replicating it in other hazards such as landslides, river erosion, and other rapid onset disasters. It may also be used in man made disasters such as fires in urban settings, crimes and safety incidents.

Related proposals

Study not undertaken


Study not undertaken