Mumbai turns to Twitter for help mapping India’s monsoon floods

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MUMBAI: When monsoon rains sweep into Mumbai annually, residents of India’s monetary hub discover their social media feeds awash with flood memes – from Venetian gondolas plying the town’s deluged streets to workplace employees commuting on inflatable dinghies.

This 12 months, a analysis institute hopes social media can play a extra sensible function – asking residents to tweet particulars about floods of their neighbourhoods and utilizing the information to challenge geographically particular flood alerts in real-time.

“Since we cannot monitor flooding across the city ourselves, we thought of taking the help of the community,” mentioned Subimal Ghosh, head of the Climate Studies division on the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, which is behind the initiative.

Around the world in nations together with Australia and Indonesia, local weather researchers are more and more utilizing information gathered through social media to help monitor climate occasions equivalent to floods.

They say the information might be used to enhance emergency response and rescue efforts and make forecasting extra correct, which is able to develop into all of the extra important as local weather change fuels excessive climate.

“We need participatory models for climate adaptation as we will be hit by more extreme rainfall events in the near future. We will be able to show real-time flooding like Google Maps shows red for traffic,” mentioned Ghosh.

India’s monetary capital, which lies on the coast of the Arabian Sea, has recorded “extreme” rainfall – outlined as greater than 200 mm (7.9 inches) of precipitation in 24 hours – a couple of dozen instances between 2017 and 2021, civic information exhibits.

That is double the variety of such occasions through the earlier five-year interval.

The IIT-Bombay challenge, launched in June simply forward of the monsoon, will use digital elevation maps that present an space’s peak above sea stage, spatial rainfall information together with the tweets of native residents.

Tweets noting “ankle-deep” or “knee-deep” water, for instance, can be harvested from Twitter utilizing an automatic system that can strive to extract flood depth and site data from them.

This can be used to give real-time flood data for all the metropolis that can be put out on a portal.

For occasion, “which areas need water to be pumped out first, how can the traffic be controlled and how can people reach home?” Ghosh mentioned.

“The city needs a resilience plan,” he instructed the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

AI catastrophe bots

Similar initiatives elsewhere have proven how native individuals can play an element in crafting flood responses or alerts.

When flooding hit Australia’s east coast this 12 months, submerging total cities, Brisbane-based tech startup FloodMapps posted a collection of flood maps on its social media accounts, primarily Twitter.

The posts prompted some individuals to submit related maps of different areas. Others despatched images of the areas depicted, serving to to visualise what the maps had been displaying, a FloodMapps spokesperson mentioned.

“People have reached out to others to alert them to flood conditions,” the spokesperson added in emailed feedback.

In one case, a enterprise proprietor was ready to warn his employees to keep at house after he noticed the map alongside a photograph from a neighbour, the corporate mentioned.

In Indonesia, a neighborhood web site based a couple of decade in the past, PetaBencana.id (which suggests catastrophe map), is utilizing synthetic intelligence (AI) and bots to map disasters in actual time.

The prize-winning platform asks individuals to confirm their social media posts with geotagged pictures after which combines official information to construct up-to-the-minute, on-line flood maps that “have been used by millions of residents”, the platform’s founder, Nashin Mahtani, mentioned just lately.

Low-income neighbourhoods

South and East Asia are house to almost 1.36 billion of the 1.46 billion individuals in danger from flooding around the globe, with India and China accounting for a 3rd of them, in accordance to the World Bank.

Low-income neighbourhoods are worse-affected by floods, notably in cities like Mumbai which have a big inhabitants residing in casual settlements, the World Bank report states, pointing to poor drainage and land-use planning as key components.

While the town launched a flood forecasting system two years in the past and put in large drainage pumps in low-lying areas, storm-related disasters equivalent to constructing collapses and landslides are frequent within the monsoon months, researchers mentioned.

In current weeks, floods have hit Bangladesh and northeast India, killing greater than 25 individuals in India’s Assam state and leaving hundreds of thousands stranded with little meals and ingesting water in each nations.

“Flooding is an unavoidable reality, and what we are not able to do is minimise the damage caused by floods,” mentioned Prasoon Singh, lead with Center for Global Environment Research of New Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

“(But) crowdsourcing information can validate forecasts, help tweak predictions and improve relief and rescue operations,” he mentioned, including that data garnered on social media is also fed into historic information units.

In the brief time period, Ghosh mentioned he hoped the Mumbai challenge would help metropolis residents go about their every day enterprise – even through the monsoon season.

“My daughter was in school when it started raining heavily and buses were stranded on flooded roads. All the parents were worried and we didn’t know how to reach the school through water logged roads,” he mentioned.

“Real-time information is important.” – Thomson Reuters Foundation



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