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The UN has announced a new training programme to help Asian countries better plan for and cope with flood damage.

The UN University launched their flood risk assessment programme yesterday (15 October) at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand.

Water experts and officials from China, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam will take part in a 14 week pilot programme to learn the tools and methodologies necessary to carry out realistic flood risk assessment.

The training will also cover risk assessment case studies in the participants' countries: Beijing, Kathmandu, Pampanga River Basin in the Philippines, Colombo and Hanoi.

Srikantha Herath, senior academic programme officer at the UN University, said the training will cover the use of rainfall and hydrological models to simulate the flow of water over land and in rivers, as well as the interaction that occurs during flooding.

The training will also include economic risk assessment. Flood control measures can be extremely expensive, said Herath, so it is important to work out how to minimise losses, especially if floods turn out worse than expected.

The training programme is the result of a meeting in 2003 — which gathered water experts from around Asia and the Pacific, including China, Cambodia, Fiji, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam — to discuss water related threats and possible risk studies.

Last year Thailand experienced its biggest flood in 60 years, resulting in economic losses of over US$500 million.

Thai water management officials say the country cannot properly prevent and mitigate floods as it lacks integrated flood assessment strategies.

According to a senior official at Thailand's water resources department, who did not wish to be named, several agencies have been working on methods to measure precipitation and water run-off, but they have not worked together, resulting in incompatible data and preventing proper planning for floods.

"If we receive training from the countries where integrated water management has been adopted, it may help us to think better," said the official.