India Flood Forecast Spending to Rise Five-Fold on Deaths

India, where flooding killed more than 1,000 people last month, plans to increase spending on flood forecasting and river management five-fold to 33.69 billion rupees ($555 million) over the next five years.

“We are revisiting our assessment of water resources and basin-wise data across the nation,” Rajesh Kumar, chairman of the Central Water Commission, said in an interview in New Delhi. “Competing demands for water and climate-change concerns are the triggers that are pushing us to improve our systems.”

The Central Water Commission, which collects India’s water data and advises federal and state governments on dam, irrigation and hydro projects, is investing in satellite-linked sensors to improve flood forecasting, Kumar said. The agency will more than double the current 445 stations that use sensors to monitor river basins and coastal areas, Kumar said.

The commission was criticized for poor forecasting after rains last month caused flash floods and landslides in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand that borders China, killing at least 1,000 people. About 10,000 more were stranded.

“Climate-change monitoring in the Himalayan areas and in the northeastern states will be our priority,” Kumar said. The agency has sought increased budgets to reassess water levels across 20 major river basins in India, he said last week.

The south Asian nation that accounts for 4 percent of the world’s water resources and 18 percent of its population needs to update its two-decades-old hydrological data, Kumar said. Climate change and increasing demand from people and industries is expected to cut water availability by 28 percent in 2050 from 1,704 cubic meters in 2010, India’s farm ministry said.

In the five years that ended April 2012, India spent 6.45 billion rupees on flood forecasting and in the next five years that end in 2017, 33.69 billion rupees in spending is planned.

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