DOST: More scientists, supercomputers needed for Project Noah

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Though deemed highly successful, the government?s tech-driven disaster preparedness and mitigation program — Project Noah (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) — needs more scientists and advanced equipment so it can deliver more responsive and accurate information and alerts.

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This is according to Department of Science and Technology (DOST) secretary Mario Montejo, who mentioned specifically the need to acquire more supercomputers to upgrade the project and enhance its warning systems.

Montejo made the statement on Tuesday, July 22, during the second anniversary of Project Noah at the Pagasa (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) office in Agham Road in Quezon City.

The DOST launched Project Noah in 2012 to serve as a disaster prevention program that would enable government agencies to provide a six-hour lead-time warning to vulnerable communities against impending floods and to use advanced technology to enhance geo-hazard vulnerability maps.

Among those present at the anniversary celebration were DOST officials and personnel of the Pagasa, the Disaster Risk and Exposure Assessment for Mitigation (Dream), and ClimateX.

Pagasa administrator Vicente Malano said they are studying ways to relay warnings and information that will easily be understood by the public.

He added that a tie-up with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) has been forged to the project, particularly in establishing additional radars to cover more areas vulnerable to disasters and heavy rainfall. A town in Northern Cebu was chosen as the pilot site for this initiative.

On the other hand, Project Noah executive director Mahar Lagmay raised the need of training more scientists.

Val Barcinal, director of the Marikina Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMO), said Project Noah has immensely contributed in the dissemination of accurate anti-disaster warning systems in their flood-prone area.

“Just like in the bible, Noah is the saving grace of mankind,” he said, adding that timely warning from the project has contributed in saving lives and properties especially during the typhoon season.

Last year, tech colossus IBM donated a supercomputer to the government dubbed ?Blue Gene? to the DOST, which greatly contributed to the accuracy of the Project Noah by as much as 80 percent.

Apart from the supercomputer, Project Noah?s current technology on disaster prevention includes the use of hazard maps, Doppler radars, and computations on flood levels, wind strength, and amount of rainfall.

With the Disaster Risk and Exposure Assessment for Mitigation or Dream project under the Project Noah, all the 18 major river systems have also been surveyed and data collected to create flood hazard maps.

To date, 5,060 barangays have already flood hazard maps out of the 18,000 barangays covered by the LiDAR data gathering. The flood hazard maps are expected to help barangays pinpoint the specific areas in their locality that are safe and unsafe for evacuation and relocation sites.

Another project under Noah, called Weather Information-Integration for Systems Enhancement or Wise, now provides a seven-day weather forecast enhanced from data gathered from Pagasa. The program has committed to soon come up with seasonal forecast six months in advance.

?With the 7-day forecast we are able to provide valuable information to the public that will be very useful in the everyday life of Mang Juan and Aling Maria. Later when we can do seasonal forecasts, our farmers will be informed of what crops to plant and when is the best time to plant, thereby increasing agricultural productivity,? Montejo stated. — PNA

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