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23 May 2013



Hydrometeorological Early Warning System in Costa Rica

WMO in cooperation with World Bank/GFDRR and experts from national agencies and community representatives from Costa Ricaorganized several events and a special video presentation Costa Rica: Building community resilience to floods (May 21). This showcased how community involvement, institutional cooperation from national to local level, combined with latest technologies for observing, monitoring and forecasting of hazards, have led to a more effective and sustainable early warning system to protect the lives and livelihoods of communities at risk in the Sarapiqui River Basin in Costa Rica.

The project has led to close coordination and cooperation among national agencies and empowered over 50 Sarapiqui River basin communities. A representative from the Sarapiqui communities was a panellist at the  Formal Plenary on “Community Resilience: The Foundation of Resilient Nations” (May 22) at the Global Platform on DRR.

Sarapiquí is exposed to both hydrometeorological and geological hazards. The Sarapiquí River and several of its tributaries recurrently overflow, affecting communities, crops and livestock. A lack of settlement planning and infrastructure construction in flood-prone zones, along with the rapid deterioration of watersheds, has increased the risks of loss of life and property in the area. In addition, the 2009 Cinchona earthquake caused a series of landslides in neighboring Sarapiquí that modified drainage patterns.

WMO – through its Disaster Risk Reduction Programme, Regional Office IV (North and Central America) in Costa Rica and its Hydrology and Water Resource Programme – collaborated with the World Bank Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction (GFDRR) to address the risk issues with the National Meteorological Institute (IMN), the National Commission of Risk Prevention and Emergency Response (CNE) and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE). Thus, the “Costa Rica Early Warning System (EWS) for Hydrometeorological Hazards Project,” funded by the World Bank GFDRR, was launched early in 2012 and was completed by May 2013.

The project developed an effective institutional framework for an operational early warning system at the Pilot Site of the Sarapiquí river basin. It:

  • Evaluated and improve flood monitoring and forecasting capacities;
  • Bolstered cooperation between IMN, ICE and CNE at the local level to reinforce emergency preparedness and response;
  • Strengthened the engagement of the community, local authorities and national agencies;
  • Integrated the Costa Rica policy instruments for disaster risk management and related legal frameworks with existing emergency preparedness and response standard;
  • Developed a feedback mechanism aimed at improving the preparedness and response mechanisms; and
  • Provided IMN, ICE and CNE with the necessary tools to optimize information gathering for EWS related decision-making.

The project led to unprecedented coordination and cooperation among the three national agencies, IMN, ICE and CNE, at national level and with over 50 Sarapiqui River basin communities. A simulation exercise on 28 February drew over 800 participants – some 500 volunteered to participate in an evacuation exercise coordinated by CNE, the police, the Red Cross and local authorities.










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