Detecting flood risks in developing countries

Megan Behnke, News Writer

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The last of the GeoQuest presentation series was held on Nov. 12 and featured how to detect urban flood risks in developing countries.

As stated on the UW Oshkosh website, the presentation noted several ways to detect urban flood risks.

“With climate change, an increasing number of urban communities are subject to unprecedented flooding episodes, resulting in loss of lives and property damage,” The website states. “Most urban areas in developed countries have access to numerous tools to assist victims during and after these events. In contrast, many developing countries face much greater challenges associated with similar flooding events.”

UWO geography professor and speaker at the presentation Mamadou Coulibaly said he wanted to show students there are ways to help out countries that have terrible flood risks.

“They can be empowered by what they learn here and be able to make a difference not only in the country but globally,” Coulibaly said. “That’s the main thing.”

Geography professor Angela Subulwa said the presentation is part of a kickoff to International Education Week and Geography Awareness Week.

“Looking through [geographic information systems] in Action,” Subulwa said. “students can look forward to some geographical awareness.”

Coulibaly said he got interested in the topic after learning about the different types of floodings and scenarios.

“Recently with global warming we have been witnessing recurrent flooding,” Coulibaly said.

The presentation showed ways to map floods, which included satellite imagery, aerial photography, modeling and runoff depth sensing devices.

“Mapping is a challenge because flash flooding is about the flooding that happened and disappeared very quickly,” Coulibaly said.
Coulibaly said the GeoQuest series this semester has the theme of civic engagement.

“I elected to go with this one because I think it also touching on the group issues also civic engagement,” Coulibaly said.

Urban expansion is another problem in developing countries, caused by demographic boom, rural exodus, warfare and immigration.

“As a result, there is less water infiltration,” Coulibaly said. “If you remove the filtration from the land, there is more runoff. It can also result in random and precarious construction and overcrowded cities.”

In most cases of drainage infrastructure, there are open and clogged drains as well no pumps and no treatment plants.

“In those countries, the drainage system is very rudimentary, very basic and often open,” Coulibaly said. “And because it is open, people tend to throw things in, making it clog often.”

Coulibaly said in comparing places around the world, you see how far we’ve come and start to appreciate it.

“It leads you to try to improve other things around the world and connecting to those places,” Coulibaly said. “That helps you also understand people from other places, helps us lead a better world.”

There have been multiple EMS/Rescue problems; there are often no warnings, no evacuation plans, nothing like 9-1-1 and there are limited rescue equipments and vehicles.

“Rescue equipment is very limited because of limited means,” Coulibaly said. “There are no helicopters or fast police cars; some police are even often on motorcycles.”

Coulibaly said students should absolutely go to these GeoQuest presentations, even if it’s not necessary for their classes, and having them be aware of what’s going on without leaving the country helps.

“One can find himself involved in domestic or global issues,” Coulibaly said. “Flooding happened here too. So for people to have a larger perspective of the phenomenon compared to the way it is here. That way, it lets us appreciate what we have here.”