The Mekong River Commission Secretariat (MRC) announced on Monday that it has joined Facebook in launching an initiative aimed at providing timely flood warnings and drought information to riverside communities and governments in the Lower Mekong region.
An MRC press release said the initiative is the first of its kind and will help officials adapt to using online digital systems.
Shanti Alexander, the Asia-Pacific community affairs manager at Facebook, said the social media giant was pleased to partner with the MRC to keep millions of people in the region informed about possible floods and droughts so that they are better prepared for a crisis.
The MRC estimated that the average annual cost of flood damage in the Lower Mekong Basin was approximately $60-70 million, with Cambodia and Vietnam accounting for approximately two-thirds of the total.
It said drought events in the Low Mekong Basin had increased in frequency and severity in the past decades and this trend is expected to continue. The basin was also vulnerable to additional climate change impacts.
According to the press release, the MRC has installed 22 hydrological stations along the Lower Mekong Basin to monitor and collect river water level and rainfall data. The system provides the public and local governments with data on daily river water levels, flood alerts and drought forecasting for the whole year. The system will be explained through a 3D animated video, which will be shared on Facebook’s platform.
Facebook will also train relevant officials from the four MRC member countries – Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand – on how to use different digital tools to communicate effectively and quickly during and after a disaster, the press release said.
Dr Anoulak Kittikhoun, the MRC chief strategy and partnership officer, said: “We see the utmost importance of providing timely and reliable information on water levels to Mekong countries and communities exposed to flood and drought and an ever-changing climate so that they can take action in time to avoid or reduce their risk and prepare an effective response.”
MRC communication officer Meas Sopheak said on Monday that currently, the public needs to visit the MRC website to receive alerts, but the MRC is working to develop an app.