Minnat Ali (42) of Harinathpur village in Sirajganj is a farmer. He is also the owner of a small drug shop in his village. Floods in 2007 and 2008 destroyed all the crops in his field and damaged almost the entire inventory of his store. Thinking back to that time, Minnat said, "This flood took almost everything I worked so hard to make. I didn`t know how long or if ever I could recover from it".
Surrounded by river Jamuna, Sirajganj is a low lying district prone to flooding that often causes massive loss to crops, livestock and properties.
Distance from the district and sub-district headquarters along with with poor infrastructure and communication facilities creates immense challenges in providing early warning information for floods. Stressing the need for an early warning system, Minnat said, "Floods are a natural occurrence. They happen almost every year in this area. If we have the proper information we can prepare by taking our livestock to higher ground or storing some food for the next few days."
With the technical support from CDMP II the Disaster Management Bureau (DMB) successfully piloted the use of Cell Broadcast System (CBS) for disseminating early warning among people and communities at risk. Initially CBS for early warning was piloted in two districts, Sirajganj and Cox`s Bazar. Adding to the effort initiatives have been taken to disseminate weather forecasting, flood, cyclone, landslide related early warning all over the country using IVR (Interactive Voice Response) which is now available through all mobile phone subscribers. Warning messages are collected from Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC) and Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) and published through cell broadcasting.
This initiative has improved the overall effectiveness and timeliness of disaster preparedness and response in Bangladesh by strengthening early warning systems, national management capacity and coordination facilities at all levels. For remote communities in Sirajganj district, information about present water level and 72 hours forecasting of the river Jamuna is now available through cell phone messaging.
"Because of the early warning messages, I saved my crop and store from the flood this year," said Minnat Ali when talking about the 2012 flash flood season. One evening in June he received a message on his cell phone informing him that the Jamuna was flowing above the danger level and that the situation would deteriorate further in the following 72 hours. He continued, "After receiving such news I knew I could potentially lose my entire crop so I quickly gathered everyone to harvest my crop. I also mounted the medicine shelves on higher ground to keep them above the flood water."
Reflecting on the importance of this initiative, Minnat Ali said, "Since 2010 we have been receiving warning messages and because of the message everyone from our village takes the necessary steps to save their property. This has significantly changed our lives for the better."