Disaster-management technology yet to be utilised

Disaster-management technology yet to be utilised

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Thailand: The recent floods that devastated several parts of Thailand have shown that even the most powerful Internet geographic information systems (GIS) and high-performance open-source computing are of little use if there is a lack of understanding of how to apply such technology to crisis management.

Dr Royol Chitradon, Director of the Hydro and Agro Informatics Institute, said, “The technology is in place to enable the government to integrate real-time data with different agencies and overlay its GIS on crisis management decision-making. Unfortunately, there is still a lack of vision on the use of data management to effectively respond to disasters.”

The recent floods make it clear that the Kingdom needs to learn more about climate change and how it may affect ocean cycles and seasonal weather patterns, as studies based on previous statistics may be rendered irrelevant by such change.

One example of a preventative strategy is the Water Resource Forecast model and the establishment of an infrastructure that can direct excess water from rivers and canals away from risk areas. “Major cities around the world such as Paris and Berlin have such water plans and designs,” said Dr Royol.

“But here the planners are concerned about closing or reducing road areas. We do a lot of things in an extremist manner rather than applying a Buddhist style of balance.”

Initiatives by the institute
Last month, the institute launched www.thaifloodwatch.net, showing water levels, quantity of rain, weather forecasts, sea levels, and so on. The data is then overlayed with GIS to better analyse the information and display it in layers so that is can be more easily understood.

The site will continue to be developed and it is hoped that more data will be added later, such as the height of land and depth of soil. “This can help us to predict the amount and direction of water flow and find resolutions to disasters more quickly,” said Dr Royol.

The site was made possible with a collaboration between various organisations ranging from the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency and the Hydrographic Department to the Royal Thai Navy, the Thai Meteorological Department, the Royal Irrigation Department and the Ministry of Science and Technology.

There are also plans to integrate the data at www.thaifloodwatch.net with established websites www.thaiweather.net and www.thaiwater.net.

OpenLayers has been developed to further the use of geographic data. It also employs development tools that convert GIS files to XML and software that can connect GIS with databases.

“These open-source technologies, combined with grid computing or high-performance computing and the core skill expertise of human resources, enabled us to get the site up and running in one day,” he said.

It also has know-how in mobile telemetering – equipment used to determine physical, chemical and biological denominations, for example noise levels, temperature, humidity, PH balance and oxygen levels – as well as imaging and system status.

The system automatically submits captured data to a specific destination via GPRS. Mobile telemetering is easy to install and use in remote areas.

The Water Resource Management Model works by applying mathematic models at operational level, such as computing water basin volume, water flow speed and flooding scales on the river bank by using this information along with existing output from water drainage, distribution and reserve plan to manage water resources.

Source: Bangkok Post