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Tackling urban flooding with citizen science and mobile apps

Reflections in relation to the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction 2022

13 October 2022

A flooded street in Hyderabad, India, © Strike Eagle, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cities worldwide are increasingly suffering the effects of climate-related extreme events, with the worst affected in the global south. Whilst the heavy rains of India’s monsoon season are crucial to meeting the country’s increasing water needs, flooding has become a major problem and flood mortality is increasing. From 2006 to 2015, India saw a sharp rise in the number and severity of floods, with 90 floods claiming 16,000 lives (UNISDR). 

Uncontrolled and rapid urbanisation in Delhi is exacerbating issues caused by increasingly unpredictable weather patterns (fewer rainy days, more high intensity rainfall events). Urban flooding has become a major, localised problem in built up areas, compounding risks to public health, infrastructure, and the food and water security of millions of people, and exposing the need for better water management.

Working with local authorities, Hub researchers at IIT Delhi are carrying out an in-depth analysis of issues in Delhi leading to urban flooding, including inadequate storm drainage and insufficient infrastructure maintenance. Findings show that the system is not able to deal with run-off generated by high intensity rainfall, leading to flood events that cause significant damage.To tackle the problem, the IIT Delhi team has designed and launched an innovative mobile app.

‘IITD AAB Prahari’ is a simple, easy to use app based on a citizen science approach. Encouraging communities to “help design an effective early warning system for local level flooding”, the app allows those most impacted to be directly involved and easily report real-time incidents of flooding. Information submitted by citizen scientists will be used to identify flood hotspots and causes, and help develop and deploy an effective flood early warning system that would allow residents to act prior to an urban flood event, minimising the loss of life and property.

“This app could change the way communities and governments deal with floods.” - Professor Ashvin Gosain, India Collaboratory Co-Principal Investigator

The app is currently only available for reporting in the NCT of Delhi, but has been designed so that it can be adapted for use in other geographic settings. Using data gathered via the app, the team is working with local authorities to design both immediate and longer term solutions that can be scaled and adapted according to local contexts, contributing towards the development of resilient infrastructure that will enable more efficient disaster risk management. 

An accompanying website has also been launched alongside the ‘IITD AAB Prahari’ app, serving as a single platform for all information related to  research undertaken and produced by our IIT Delhi team.


'2020 Hyderabad floods', by Strike Eagle, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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