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Scaling-up Early Warning Systems in Nepal (SEWIN)

Planning flood early warning systems in Nepal

Adaptation challenge

Nepal is prone to natural disasters, of which flood is the most damaging and recurring, mostly prevalent in Terai districts. Due to the effects of climate change, erratic rainfall has become more intensive, increasing the risk of vulnerable people living along the flood prone areas. The question is, will there be a decrease in loss of lives and properties if people are aware of the flood approaching their houses in advance?

Project background

Practical Action initiated its first pilot EWS programme for flood affected communities in Chitwan District in 2001, which later expanded to Nawalparasi District in 2006. The projects combined traditional EWS practices along with new technologies and integrated the communities with a broader framework of community based disaster mitigation programmes. Prior to 2001, EWS was based on the local “Watch and Warn” system. In 2007, with the learning from Chitwan and Nawalparasi, EWS was further developed based on linkages from upstream flood gauging stations established by the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology to communities living at risk downstream. This provided more time for the communities of Banke and Bardia Districts to respond to floods.

With learning from DIPECHO I, III and IV projects on people centred EWS and experiences from real-time evaluations, Practical Action Nepal Office is implementing a 15 month project, SEWIN, with its local partners:

  • Centre for Social Development and Research (CSDR) in Banke District (VDCs – Banakatti, Bethani, Binauna, Holiya, Kamdi and Phattepur)
  • Radha Krishna Tharu Janasewa Kendra (RKJS) in Bardia District (VDCs – Bagnaha, Dhadhawar, Gularia Municipality, Mahamadpur and Padnaha)
  • SAHAMATI in Chitwan and Nawalparasi Districts (VDCs – Kolhuwa, Narayani, Narsahi, Pithauli, Prasauni, Bachhaul, Jagatpur, Meghauli and Piple)

The project is funded by the European Commission through its Humanitarian Aid department under the fifth DIPECHO action plan for South Asia. Through this project Practical Action is promoting community based disaster risk reduction programmes through development and establishment of EWS and strengthening capacities of communities to live with and adapt to flood. This includes a range of skills development training and establishment of community managed assets and infrastructures.


To reduce disaster risk of the most vulnerable communities in flood prone districts of Nepal. The specific objective is to strengthen the capacity of vulnerable flood prone communities and district authorities in Nepal to understand, mitigate and respond to risk, and benefit through the use of flood EWS.

Key activities

  1. EWS extended and scaled up in Banke, Bardia, Chitwan and Nawalparasi Districts of Nepal
    1. Scaling up of EWS in the previous sites from visual flood monitoring systems to upstream information sharing system through telephone
    2. Extension of EWS to new VDCs and communities for replication in additional geographic areas
    3. Raising awareness on EWS for the stakeholders and the communities
  2. Increased capacity of flood-prone communities to reduce their vulnerability and institutionalise Community Based Disaster Management (CBDM)
    1. Development of CBDM plans
    2. Capacity building of communities and stakeholders
    3. Small-scale mitigation activities and infrastructures support by utilising low-cost and replicable technologies to assist DRR at community level
  3. National and international level stakeholders influenced to incorporate EWS in their plans and programmes
    1. Facilitation and support for institutional strengthening and capacity building of government and other stakeholders
    2. Sharing the lessons and influencing for EWS at national and international workshops, conferences and seminars
    3. Produce and disseminate knowledge products on EWS for wider use

Early Warning Systems

The term ‘early warning’ is used in many fields to describe the provision of information on an emerging dangerous circumstance where that information can enable action in advance to reduce the risks involved. Early warning systems exist for natural geophysical and biological hazards, complex socio-political emergencies, industrial hazards, personal health risks and many other related hazards.

Studies have demonstrated that disaster prevention can pay high dividends and found that for every Euro invested in risk management, broadly 2 to 4 Euros are returned in terms of avoided or reduced impacts on life, property, the economy and the environment.

Early warning systems can be set up to avoid or reduce the impact of hazards as flood, flashfloods, landslides, storms, forest fires etc. The significance of an effective early warning system lies in the recognition of its benefits by the members of the general public.

To learn more about the mechanisms of Early Warning Systems in Nepal click here for ‘Practitioner’s Handbook for Establishing Community Based Early Warning Systems’ (PDF 1MB).

This manual highlights the achievements and progress made by Practical Action and Mercy Corps, their local partners and the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology to establish a functional Community Based Early Warning Systems in Nepal.

For a more up-to-date review of DRR/EWS project activities in Nepal, please refer to the Strengthening Actions for Fostering Resilience through Early Warning and Risk Sensitive Planning in Nepal (SAFER) project, also implemented by Practical Action.

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