Laos plans to protect people from floods using TSU geoportal

A group of staff of the Faculty of Geology and Geography, the Biological Institute, and the TSU Department of International Relations recently paid a working visit to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The purpose of the trip, initiated by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of Laos, was to discuss the use of TSU developments to solve the problem of flooding of residential areas. In the rainy season, the country’s largest river, the Mekong, overflows it banks, each time with human casualties. Tomsk scientists demonstrated the capabilities of the software package for monitoring the flood situation and held a workshop on water monitoring for colleagues.

– Interest in the TSU developments by the Lao side arose two years ago when the University was visited by the leadership of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of Laos and representatives of Laos National University, – says Vadim Khromykh, associate professor at the Faculty of Geology and Geography. – We presented several projects, including the “Flood” application of the TSU Geoportal, for monitoring the flood situation. The application analyzes the data received from gauging stations located near settlements, and online makes a forecast indicating the areas that will be at risk of flooding.

The Laos Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology is very interested in TSU Geoportal, and the leadership of the ministry invited TSU scientists to a workshop. The workshop discussed how to use the capabilities of hydrological modeling in Southeast Asia, where the problem of floods is even more acute than in Russia. In August-September, rainfall leads to the Mekong leaving its banks by as much as 18 meters, leading to dozens of victims and many people left homeless almost every year.

– These natural disasters are not unique to Laos, flooding also occurs in other countries of Southeast Asia where the Mekong flows – Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia, – explains Vadim Khromykh. – Representatives of these states are members of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), which deals with the problems associated with the river. MRC specialists also participated in our workshop.

At the seminar, TSU geographers and hydrologists showed the capabilities of the geoportal, which has recently expanded through the use of 3D models based on surveys from UAVs. The parties discussed what work needs to be done to ensure accurate mapping of flood zones. Along with this, much attention was paid to the assessment of natural capital, which is of great economic importance for the country. Alexander Adam, the head of the Department of Ecology, Nature Management, and Environmental Engineering at the Biological Institute introduced the Russian experience in this area to Lao experts.

– Laos is just starting to develop this area, – notes Vadim Khromykh. – In fact, the biodiversity of this country is amazing. During an expedition that took place in Laos under the auspices of the International Wildlife Fund, several hundred new species of plants and insects were discovered that were not previously studied by anyone. For a country with tremendous natural wealth, it is imperative to develop assessment tools to make effective use of these resources.

TSU scientists conducted a workshop with role-playing elements for their Lao colleagues, where they modeled the process of monitoring water resources using the example of three river basins of the large tributaries of the Mekong. Also, during a working visit, TSU representatives were invited to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of Laos, where they discussed further areas of collaboration with Sommad Pholsena, the head of the department. As a result, a memorandum of collaboration with TSU was prepared.

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