An overview of an international development project currently being conducted by Ambiental in Malaysia to deliver flood risk analysis and to deploy flood forecasting capabilities.

Ambiental is developing flood risk analysis and flood forecasting systems for Malaysia. This prestigious project is part-funded by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP) which uses space knowledge, expertise and capability to provide a sustainable, economic or societal benefit to undeveloped nations and developing economies.

Ambiental has been awarded funding by the UK Space Agency after a successful bid application in conjunction with Satellite Applications Catapult, who act as the lead organisation. For this project a consortium of 13 UK based companies was formed which all operate under the banner of Earth and Sea Observation Systems (EASOS). Ambiental has been appointed as the lead organisation responsible for delivering the flood risk component of a wider project brief.

Environmental Monitoring Systems

The overall project objective is to provide the Government of Malaysia with a genuinely scalable and flexible Civil Protection Dashboard environmental monitoring system, which makes use of global best practice, the latest in computer and modelling technology, and the most advanced remote sensing satellite equipment and data currently available. The project will provide assistance to Malaysia under three themes; flood risk, illegal logging and marine pollution.

Jamek Mosque at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak River, Kuala Lumpur (photo: Paul Drury, 2017)

Malaysia is a country which faces a very high risk of flooding relative to the risk posed through other natural hazards. Along with much of South-East Asia the nation experiences frequent and damaging flooding. Malaysia receives some of the highest annual rainfall on the planet, around 288 cm (compared to the UK which receives 122 cm annually). This rainfall can be delivered through intense storms which is mostly received during two monsoon seasons or as a result of cyclonic weather patterns. Flooding is an inevitable consequence of extreme rainfall which can never be eliminated entirely. However, much can be done to mitigate against flood impacts to improve resilience, enable better planning, provide more effective responses and to ensure a speedy recovery.

State of the art flood forecasting solution for Malaysia

A key element to improving flood resilience is the use of flood forecasting and early warning systems, which can also enable an effective response capability. Ambiental’s proposition is to use existing rainfall and water level sensors, weather radar and weather forecasts, coupled with near real-time satellite data and the latest computer and modelling technology to deliver an easy to interpret state of the art flood forecasting solution to the Malaysian government. This will support effective decision making prior to, during and after a flood event – thereby reducing the potentially catastrophic impact of flooding, assisting disaster relief activities, as well as improving recovery speed and efficiency.

The Gombak River at Sentul, Kuala Lumpur. A location which is prone to flooding (photo: Paul Drury, 2017)

This project also aims to deliver a suite of data products which will analyse the risk of flooding within the project study area. High precision flood maps will be built for multiple sources of flooding across a range of return periods. These maps will form the foundation for further risk impact analysis work using a catastrophe modelling approach. These products will enable better understanding of the flood risk landscape and can be used to support decision making around planning and development.

Enabling a pre-emptive approach to flood disaster response

The 18 month project began in December 2016 and is already well underway. There have been numerous technical planning meetings at Satellite Applications Catapult headquarters in Harwell with consortium members. Ambiental has also undertaken two overseas trips to Malaysia in order to meet with government stakeholders, understand the current gauging and analysis technologies being used and to define the full set of feature requirements. These productive visits have established great working relationships amongst the many consortium members and government stakeholders.

With increasing flood risk through climate change and as populations grow there is a need for sustainable solutions to the flood problem for Malaysia. The system being developed by Ambiental will enable Malaysia’s Disaster Relief Management agency to deploy a pre-emptive approach to flood disaster response and management, helping to preserving life and reduce losses. The foundation of this work will be our unique, satellite enhanced flood modelling capability and the specialist teams of weather and flood forecasting experts we can bring to bear on this project.

A view of the lush lakeside tropical habitats within the National Defence University of Malaysia (photo: Paul Drury, 2017)

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