Natural disasters such as cyclones, floods, and droughts often strike Myanmar and inflict significant losses. For example, Cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar’s densely-populated Ayeyarwady River Basin in 2008, accounted for upwards of 138,000 deaths.
These calamities have a disproportionate impact upon the rural poor, who reside in water-vulnerable areas and rely upon water-dependent sectors such as agriculture for their livelihood. However, these disasters can be mitigated when the right observation and warning systems are in place.
Along those lines, NIRAS has teamed up with several hydrology and meteorology institutes in tackling the World Bank’s challenge of integrating and modernizing the weather systems of Myanmar’s Department of Meteorology and Hydrology (DMH).
A complex situation
The AIRBM project is structured around the Ayeyarwady River Basin, a richly fertile area that bisects the country north to south and covers over 400,000 square kilometres, encompassing millions of people who reside there to grow crops, especially rice.
With support from multiple countries, the DMH has installed many different weather- and water-related systems throughout the basin. For the most part, these systems operate independently of each other, but if they were to work in a more coordinated fashion, they would be much more effective at predicting and preventing natural disasters that can strike at a moment’s notice.
The NIRAS advantage
In order to design a modernised solution for aligning and integrating all systems, a team of twelve experts from NIRAS, the Danish Hydrological Institute, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, and the Finnish Meteorological Institute are looking into the operating proceedings at DMH and will provide a procurement plan and strategy for systems integration.
Based on this strategy, NIRAS is managing the project's implementation alongside capacity building within the Government of Myanmar. These efforts will have a wide range of applications, from aiding farmers in coping with climate change to assisting the airline industry with predicting and navigating challenging weather patterns.
The World Bank predicts that the AIRBM project will benefit millions of poor people in the Ayeyarwady River Basin by protecting the lives and livelihoods of those affected most by storms, floods, and droughts. Moreover, the project will strengthen the government’s ability to manage the basin’s resources and make informed decisions about future investments in developing the river.