Using flood model data to assist with humanitarian crises in the Middle East

In News by ambrisk

Using flood model data to assist with
humanitarian crises in the Middle East

Ambiental’s work with RFSAN in support of the Humanitarian Community

Ambiental has been working on an exciting new project aimed at assisting to inform the potential location of refugee and Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps in Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, and showing the power of flood mapping to aid in humanitarian crises along with the development of food security plans.

The Regional Food Security Analysis Network (RFSAN), a partnership between iMMAP and UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), works in close collaboration with various humanitarian and development actors in the sector of food security. The geographic scope of RFSAN’s work includes countries such as Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. One of the many tasks of the program is to understand the implications of climate change and the Syria crisis on food security.

The civil war in Syria has brought death and destruction to the Syrian people, causing many to flee their homes; 4.8 million Syrians are refugees, and 6.5 million are displaced within Syria. This means that location of/and building of camps is an urgent task, but one which must be done well, to save further upheavals for those suffering from the crisis. Ambiental’s unique flood data models are being used to do just that, to ensure that new camps and agricultural zones in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan are situated in safe areas, away from potential flash flooding.

Ambiental was commissioned to develop flood data for RFSAN to provide detailed maps of the area, with overlays collating population, vegetation and flood data – the latter of which they have outsourced to Ambiental. The maps will be used to help decide where new agricultural areas could be initiated, along with assisting with camp planning. Of course, for both of these land uses it is vital to be away from flash flooding, and this is where Ambiental’s advanced flood models are able to provide assistance.

The main flooding issues in the area under consideration – Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan – are caused by flash flooding from rainfall and snowmelt. Ambiental was able to create detailed models for the risk of both fluvial flooding, where rivers burst their banks, and pluvial flooding, where ground becomes saturated from rainfall events.

All of the flood data for this project was modelled in house, at Ambiental’s Brighton offices, with some remote in-country help from RFSAN’s Jordan office. Parameters for Intensity-duration-frequency equations were sourced from existing research, including academic journal articles and technical reports, to produce rain data in a suitable format to be overlaid onto topographical datasets. Satellite images were used to work out parameters for infiltration (how well water soaks into the surfaces it falls onto), by analysing the surfaces found in the various regions – soil, rock, tarmac, etc. – then this too was added to the model. Ambiental’s output was flood maps, giving an indication of potential flood extent (how large an area would be flooded), and flood depth. These maps referred to three return periods, characterised by different amounts and types of rainfall. RFSAN will now use these maps to help them develop more complex, overlaid maps, showing how vegetation, population and flood risks interact.

Ambiental Project Manager, Mark Nunns, commented: “Ambiental is very proud to be involved in such a worthwhile project. The company was approached by RFSAN to work on this project and we saw this as a great opportunity to use our in-house flood expertise and flood model data to assist with a highly worthwhile cause. The Syria crisis has been well documented in the media and I’m sure we are all aware of the devastating impacts it has had on local populations.

The humanitarian effort has been on a huge scale and we are pleased to be able to support the stabilisation of populations and the regeneration of the agricultural industry. By using our flood data to identify land at risk of flooding, the UN and local governments can now plan for the future and bring some much needed relief to these affected areas.”

Craig von Hagen, RFSAN Information Coordinator, commented: “Natural hazards such as flooding not only threaten the safety of people but also adversely impact life-sustaining factors such as access to food and livelihoods. In addition to helping our partners increase their coordination efficiency in aid delivery, Ambiental’s flood map data set will also complement efforts to improve the quality of information for better agricultural practices, systems, and policies.

Through the production of accurate information, provided to us by our partners, such as Ambiental, we can effectively engage in emergency support and sustainable program development and implementation.

Outside of food security, our partners can use flood maps to identify safe areas for setting up camps for refugees. In January of this year, 300 tents were washed away by floods in Idleb, affecting 1,000 people during winter.  In Zaatari camp, hundreds of tents were flooded in 2013 by torrential rains.  In so many ways, flood maps can help mitigate refugees’ exposure to further distress and hazards.”

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