India’s Government teams up with Google to improve flood management

India’s Central Water Commission (CWC) has signed a Collaboration Agreement with Google that will help crisis management agencies deal with extreme hydrological events, such as floods, more effectively. 

The agreement allows CWC to make use of Google’s artificial intelligence, machine learning and geospatial mapping expertise for effective water management and flood forecasting. The agreement will also help CWC to better disseminate flood related information through different platforms developed by Google. 

Under this Agreement, CWC and Google will share technical expertise in different fields related to flood management, including  geospatial flood mapping and analysis of hydrological observation data. The agreement also facilitates collaboration on improving flood prediction systems, which will help provide location-targeted, actionable flood warnings; a high priority research project utilizing Google Earth Engine to help visualize and improve flood management; and a cultural project to build online exhibitions on the Rivers of India. 

Floods often cause widespread devastation in India, especially during the monsoon season. In 2017, floods caused by torrential downpours from the monsoon killed more than 1,200 people across India, Bangladesh and Nepal and a further 40 million were affected. The collaboration aims to improve the flood disaster management in the country and ultimately reduce the impact of flooding on the people’s lives and properties.

The initiative on flood forecasting is likely to help lessen the impact of floods on communities. The collaborative agreement commits Google to use their expertise in the realm of artificial intelligence as well as using their high resolution Digital Elevation Model and vast computing resources to generate flood inundations with the level forecast input data provided by CWC. These maps can be used for disaster risk management and emergency response efforts by enabling the Government and disaster management organisations to effectively identify the locations and population that are at risk from floods and require warnings and information. This collaborative initiative is expected to be a milestone in flood management and in mitigating the flood losses in India.

The collaboration is the latest in flood management initiatives developed by the CWC. The CWC, as India’s apex technical organization in the field of Water Resources, launched an ambitious programme ‘National Hydrology Project’ (NHP) during the years 2016-17. This project was implemented to improve reliability and accuracy of Hydrology and Ground Water data throughout India and to improve access to this information. The mission’s was also to establish an effective and sound hydrologic database and Hydrological Information System (HIS), together with the development of consistent and scientifically-based tools and design aids to assist in the effective water resources planning and management.