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Henry M. Robert

The EU to help Bukovyna predict floods on mountain rivers

Chernivtsi region begins implementation of a cross-border project which was in works for almost three years
21 May, 2014 - 18:21

The territory now comprising Chernivtsi region suffered from flooding from the time immemorial. Floods were often catastrophic, bringing casualties in addition to huge material losses. The tragedies were caused by sharp rise of water levels in mountain streams coming in the wake of heavy rains. Rivers burst banks just in a few hours and swept away everything in their paths. So it happened, in particular, quite recently, in 2008 and 2010.

“Catastrophic floods in mountain rivers come as a result of heavy precipitation in their upper courses,” head of Chernivtsi Centre for Hydrometeorology Tetiana Nehadailova said. “Consequently, to predict the further development of hydrological situation, including arrival time of the wave, its level, and the likely area of flooding, we need not only an accurate prediction of precipitation, which is today one of the most difficult tasks, but also an estimate for the amount of the precipitation that has already happened. It is important because even in adjacent mountain valleys where the rivers arise the amount of precipitation may vary widely.”

For objective reasons, calculating the amount of precipitation in the upper coursers and speed of the flood wave arrival was a hard task for the region’s hydrologists until recently. Rain gauges are absent in the mountains, while hydrology posts are rare on unruly mountain rivers. For example, while the region’s biggest mountain river Prut basin has 16 of them, the Siret basin has to make do with just one. Moreover, a significant number of them have not been automated. This means that on-duty hydrologist had to take measurements on their own twice a day, and during the flood two more times, which was very difficult or impossible in the flood time. Because of this, rescuers found it hard to get from hydrologists a clear indication what river basin were they to go in first.

Help came from an unexpected quarter. Given that the Prut and Siret rivers are transboundary, Ukraine suffers from consequences of their flooding as much as neighboring Republic of Moldova and Romania. They contributed to the EU decision to help Bukovynians predict floods on mountain rivers. With the involvement of partners from Moldova and Romania and the EU financial support, Chernivtsi and Ivano-Frankivsk regions of Ukraine, Moldova and the basins of the Prut and Siret in Romania will implement the MIS ETC Code 966 project “The Prevention of and Protection from Freshets in the Basins of the Upper Prut and the Siret by Means of an Up-to-Date Monitoring System with EAST AVERT Automatic Stations.” The total project cost is 9,243,784.56 euros, including 8,287,607.98 euros of the EU grant. The project will be implemented in Bukovyna by the Dniester-Prut Basin Water Resources Administration, Chernivtsi Regional Center for Hydrometeorology and Chernivtsi Scientific Engineering Centre Ecoresource.

“This much-needed project is very multi-faceted,” Nehadailova said. “First, it provides for the installation of 17 automated hydrology posts on the Prut and Siret rivers and 7 rain gauges in remote corners of the Carpathians, where the rivers originate. Thanks to automation, data from hydrology posts will come every hour, and every 10 minutes during the periods of rising water (in fact, the frequency of data transmission can be set depending on the situation). Through a GPRS communications system, observational data will come in real-time to dispatcher and analytical centers of the Chernivtsi Hydrometeorological Service, Dniester-Prut River Basin Water Resources Administration and colleagues from Ivano-Frankivsk. When summarized, it will give us an opportunity to predict the further development of the situation and, most importantly, take the necessary precautions.

The second component of the project is creating a hydrological forecast models for water’s level and discharge rise. In other words, we will develop a special software adapted to the conditions of the Bukovynian rivers. Thirdly, it will involve the development of geographic information system for management and mapping of danger zones and zones of possible flooding.”

According to Nehadailova, direct meetings between hydrometeorologists of Chernivtsi region and their Romanian counterparts are highly important, too. “Physical-geographical conditions in the Prut and Siret basin are almost identical in both countries,” she said. “In view of the experience gained by our neighbors, we can choose the most efficient model for hydrology posts, predictive software, etc.”

The project has already started its implementation phase, initiated by the start conferences of its participants held in Iasi (Romania) and Chisinau (Moldova), and a similar event will be held in Ukraine soon.

COMMENTARY

Viktoria BOIKO, head of hydrological forecasts department at the Ukrainian Hydrometeocenter:

“For Ukraine, and in particular for Chernivtsi region, the border cooperation project “The Prevention of and Protection from Freshets in the Basins of the Upper Prut and the Siret by Means of an Up-to-Date Monitoring System with EAST AVERT Automatic Stations” is highly relevant. After all, the Prut and the Siret are two unruly mountain rivers, which often form floods of varying heights with very dangerous consequences. A feature of these rivers and their tributaries is that water levels rise rapidly. The responsibility of hydrometeorological service is monitoring of the development of hydrometeorological situation, analyzing the expected change in the weather and predicting as early as possible floods, determining their characteristics, assessing the impact and communicate this information to decision makers.

“As much as our financial, technical, and human resources allow, we are doing this job now. However, to bring it up to the European standards, the service is lacking funds. To resettle people from zones of possible flooding in advance, to strengthen dams, etc., one needs as much time as possible. This time can be provided by a comprehensive system of computer-aided monitoring of hydrological situation in the basins and predicting its short-term changes. These systems already operate in our neighbors’ territory in Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. Ukraine, too, has had one established through international cooperation in the Transcarpathia, where rivers flow on into neighboring countries. The system has proven itself very well, as all warnings coming from the Transcarpathian Meteorological Service are correct, quite informative and timely. We hope that a similar system will be established in the Prut and Siret basins in the near future, including by means of the international project that has just started.”

By Anna HARHALIA, Chernivtsi
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