What Chennai residents can learn from ‘rain gauge volunteers’ in Kottayam

By providing consistent and authentic data from rain measurement tools in their homes, they provide a huge piece that helps puzzle out impending flood-related disasters in the region

November 05, 2022 05:01 pm | Updated November 07, 2022 03:51 pm IST

A citizen-led movement is encouraging local panchayats in Kottayam district of Kerala to allocate small budgets for the purchase of rain gauges for homes, besides river-depth scales to be installed in catchment areas.

Meenachil River Protection Council (MRPC) with its eclectic collection of people, documents the size, intensity, duration and patterns of precipitation. MRPC members achiever this goal by taking simple measurements in their own backyards.

Running through the year, the exercise serves as a flood alert system for Meenachil, a river that has breached its banks every rainy season since 2018.

It started with the Council requesting residents to install rain gauges and monitor the rainfall around them.

People only need a cylindrical rain gauge, some sensitisation and an interest in weather observation to be part of this programme.

“Around 40 people installed rain gauges in their homes and those who did not want to monitor rainfall, bought them for schools and volunteers keen on monitoring rainfall,” says Eby Immanuel, secretary, MRPC.

The data collected by every volunteer is fed into a website.

Over the last one year, more than 200 rain gauges have been installed at homes, institutions and commercial establishments in and around Vagamon to Kumarakom to measure the rainfall at various points. Then, there are the colourfully-painted river depth scales installed on rocks and bridges.

Currently, of the 200 rain gauge volunteers, over 80 are school and college students, some of them only in primary classes.

Eby notes the success of this initiative depended on the number of volunteers feeding real-time data. Many climate action groups formed by school and college students add strength to this movement.

“A regional newspaper regularly ran the recordings from volunteers, encouraging more people to join the movement and help with providing authentic data.”

The Council members rallied around to get panchayats to set aside a sum for sponsoring rain gauges.

The reporting has to be done through the year. “Even if there is no rain, we ask them to record,” says Eby.

Green, yellow and red levels are marked in water shed areas.

Eby says the movement to make the district safe from any natural calamities is still on. “We need more than 300 rain gauges in watershed areas to get a complete picture as maximum flow of data will help give a better picture.”

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