Under UNICEF-backed project, rain gauges to be installed with community participation in Kerala this monsoon

100 rain gauges to be installed and operated with community participation along Periyar and Chalakudy river basins in Kerala

Updated - May 22, 2024 06:45 pm IST

Published - May 22, 2024 12:17 pm IST - KOCHI

Demonstration of a rain gauge to be installed and operated with community participation under a UNICEF-assisted climate change mitigation project in Kerala.

Demonstration of a rain gauge to be installed and operated with community participation under a UNICEF-assisted climate change mitigation project in Kerala. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Hundred rain gauges will be installed and operated with community participation during this monsoon along the Periyar and Chalakudy river basins in Kerala. This will benefit Idukki, Ernakulam and Thrissur districts and some areas of Palakkad district.

The project is run by Equinoct, a Kochi-based community-sourced modelling solution provider, the sole start-up from India to be chosen by the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) maiden Climate Tech Cohort Venture Fund Project. Equinoct’s Community-sourced Impact-based Flood Forecast and Early Warning System had attained the UNICEF’s recognition.

The first lot of 10 gauges to be installed along Puthenvelikkara, Chendamangalam, Poyya, Kuzhur, and Kunnukara panchayats have been handed over to community members, including students, who have also been imparted training on how to install and read the gauges. All the 100 gauges will turn operational within a month.

At present, only less than 200 rain gauges are being maintained by the government across Kerala.

Better mitigation plans

“The initiative will enable hyper-local climate warning system predicting the accurate areas to be impacted, facilitating better disaster mitigation plans, focussed mobilisation of resources and emergency services unlike the present district-wise warning system. Since the input is gathered by the affected community, empowering them to even share the critical data with government authorities, it is more of a bottom-up model. The data will also help to avoid setting up critical infrastructure such as hospitals, police stations and government offices in vulnerable areas,” said C.G. Madhusoodhanan, CEO, Equinoct.

The gauges developed by Equinoct are big enough to measure up to 350 mm of rain unlike the usual gauges with a capacity of 200 mm, thus capable of use even during extreme rainfall. Equinoct is also in the process of developing artificial intelligence-driven groundwater, river and reservoir water level prediction models and automatic rain gauges as part of the project.

Students are being made active participants in the project since it is funded by UNICEF. “Rather than perceiving children as victims of climate change, the project bestows them with agency in becoming active participants in technological and scientific capacity building in tackling the challenges,” said Mr. Madhusoodhanan.

In sync with IMD reading

The reading of manual rain gauges has been synchronised with the India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) reading daily at 8.30 a.m. The data will then be uploaded to Gather, a mobile app developed for the purpose by Equinoct. However, reading from the automatic gauges being developed will be automatically updated on the app through a cloud-enabled system every 15 minutes.

“Around 150 community members will be involved at the level of monitoring the rain gauges. During the next level of scaling up the project, we propose to create a panchayat-level dashboard about potential weather impact, benefitting various stakeholders from farmers to businesses,” said C. Jayaraman, managing director, Equinoct.

Equinoct has been working along with like-minded organisations — M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Community Resource Centre Puthenvelikkara, ASAR and Resilient Destinations Foundation — to address the challenges posed by climate change, especially tidal flooding, and co-create solutions through community participation in the coastal panchayats of Ezhikkara, Kumbalangi, and Puthenvelikkara in the last four years.

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