Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) was conceived after the massive destruction caused by late-season tropical storm Sendong (Washi) on December 16, 2011. It first made landfall in Mindanao before making another landfall over Palawan the following day. Hardest hit in Mindanao were the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, areas that were seldom visited by typhoons.
Although there were disaster warnings released three days before the devastating storm hit, the local government and residents were still inadequately prepared for the force majeure. Due to the massive loss of lives and properties brought about by the disaster, then President Benigno Aquino III called for a better system for disaster prevention and mitigation, which led to the birth of Project NOAH.
Project NOAH was launched in Marikina on July 6, 2012, led by Pres. Aquino, other government officials and its project head, Dr. Alfredo Mahar Lagmay from the NIGS or the National Institute of Geological Sciences in UP DIliman. The project is a mix of technology and science for disaster risk reduction and management, conceived as a program to offer a 6-hour lead time warning to all agencies dealing with disaster prevention and mitigation in the Philippines.
Coordinating and cooperating agencies
The project is a combination of the expertise and skills of people from the UP College of Engineering, National Institute of Geological Sciences, the Science and Technology Information Institute (STII), the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). Project NOAH now has 21 cooperating and coordinating institutions coming from the private and local sectors and supported by telecommunications and media companies.
The responsive program has six key components:
- provision of hydro-meteorological devices such as water level monitoring stations and automated rain gauges in flood-prone areas and major river basins
- development of 3D flood-inundation and -hazard maps
- storm-surge assessment and mitigation
- establishment of a flood center
- local operation and development of landslide sensors and Doppler radar systems
- real-time weather condition display on TV and web portals
Although it’s called the leading disaster prevention and mitigation program in the country, it’s about to be shut down by the government due to lack of funds and is set to cease operation on March 1, 2017.
Rather than shut down the program, the University of the Philippines is taking over Project NOAH, according to UP President Danilo L. Concepcion. He said that it’s coming back home, because it was conceptualized by the DOST with support from UP professors. Most of the staff who worked on the project are from the University of the Philippines as well.
The UP President added that the benefits of Project NOAH extend farther than its research value. It has become a lifesaver for the millions of Filipinos that are regularly threatened by natural calamities, from storm surges, to floods to landslides. UP will breathe new life into it.
Project NOAH will be under the Office of the UP President. Dr. Lagmay said that science and technology are not the only components of disaster management. It also requires educators and artists to effectively communicate to everyone concerned. UP will be the perfect home for the program as it is envisioned that disaster issues in the country will grow bigger and needs the support of a multidisciplinary community. Dr. Lagmay added that they are deeply indebted to the DOST for being Project NOAH’s host for the past four years and will continue to complement the works of all agencies involved to reach the program’s goal: to mitigate the effects of natural disasters on the entire nation.
This post is supported by a writing grant from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)