Fourth Regional Hands-on Training on Community-Based Flood Early Warning System (CBFEWS)



The Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region – the source of 10 large Asian river systems and the basis for livelihood to around 240 million people – is prone to natural hazards, and this susceptibility is exacerbated by climate change and its impacts. Floods and flash floods, which are major natural hazards in the HKH, are therefore catastrophic to downstream communities. Many rivers and tributaries flowing from the mountains and hills enter the plains, sometimes across international boundaries, leaving flat, flood-prone, and partially waterlogged areas. Light to heavy rainfall in the hills can cause flash floods and huge losses of lives and livelihoods in the hills as well as in the plains. Though early warning systems have been developed at the global, regional, and national levels to provide flood information, there are gaps – as identified by the Hyogo Protocol and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Special Report on Extreme Events and Disasters (SREX 2012) – in disseminating this information to communities that are most vulnerable, and more so when the communities lie across international administrative boundaries. 

To address this gap, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) piloted a community-based flood early warning system (CBFEWS) in Assam, India, in 2010 and upscaled and outscaled this system to Afghanistan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. CBFEWS was conferred with the UNFCCC’s prestigious “Momentum for Change: 2014 Lighthouse Activity Award” under the ICT Solutions category at the 2014 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP20), Lima, Peru. The system is being further outscaled in the HKH region through like-minded partner organizations. 

What is CBFEWS? 

CBFEWS is an integrated system of tools and plans through which upstream communities, upon detecting flood risk, disseminate the information to vulnerable downstream communities for preparedness and response to save lives and livelihoods. CBFEWS integrates technology with local knowledge and perceptions using a strong people-centric approach. 

The technology behind CBFEWS

In 2010, ICIMOD designed an automated device that detects rising water levels and transmits flood signals through a cable to receiver units placed at a designated caretaker’s house. Upon receiving the flood warning, the caretaker alerts concerned agencies and vulnerable communities downstream via landline or mobile phone. The system was installed in the Jiadhal River in Assam in 2010 but was destroyed by the devastating flood of August 2011 – fortunately, not before triggering the flood alarm, which saved lives. The technology has undergone significant improvements, most notably in accessing data in real time, improving the accuracy of flood detection and increasing the system’s geographic coverage. In 2013, the device was enabled with wireless communication facility, and five systems were installed in Assam. In 2016, the device was equipped with an ultrasonic-based water level system and telemetric system that could transmit data to a server using the Internet, and these systems were installed in the Ratu River in Nepal and India. These improvements were made possible through ICIMOD’s research and development and support from Sustainable Eco Engineering (SEE). 

Introduction to the training

This 5-day regional hands-on training aims to support vulnerable communities to install and operate the device. It will also guide participants to assess the risk and vulnerability of communities and develop reliable and efficient communication networks encompassing caretakers, concerned agencies, and communities to disseminate flood warnings efficiently. ICIMOD will conduct the training with support from SEE.


This training’s main objective is to provide comprehensive technical and theoretical knowledge about CBFEWS planning, installation, and implementation. By the end of the training, participants are expected to be able to conduct the necessary surveys and install the EWS instrument independently.


This hands-on training caters to those with direct involvement in CBFEWS implementation on the ground, which includes the following: 

  • System caretakers 

  • Immediate recipients of the information in the vulnerable communities 

  • Representatives of local government line agencies directly involved in disaster management

  • Representatives from local partner organizations. 

Participants with a basic knowledge of handling electrical and electronic equipment are more pertinent.


The training will mostly be conducted in English. However, translation assistance to another language can be provided as per the requirement.


CBFEWS implementation is supported by the Government of Australia under the following ICIMOD initiatives: Strengthening Water Resources Management in Afghanistan (SWaRMA) Initiative; the Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP) for South Asia in Nepal and India (Bihar) under the Koshi Basin Initiative, and in Pakistan under the Indus Basin Initiative. In Assam, India, the CBFEWS implementation is supported by the Governments of Norway and Sweden under the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP). ICIMOD’s core donors in Afghanistan are also involved in the implementation. 

ICIMOD gratefully acknowledges the support of its core donors: the Governments of Afghanistan, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Norway, Pakistan, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. ICIMOD acknowledges all partners and government line agencies supporting this initiative, and Sustainable Eco-Engineering for technical support and instrument manufacturing.