The intensity and increased number of natural disasters in El Salvador have resulted in increased needs to invest into emergency care and rehabilitation. The country is also facing the challenge of overcoming inadequate management of natural resources, including water.
Coupled with the impacts of climate change, this is contributing to increased levels of vulnerability of the people To tackle these challenges, the Municipality of San Pedro Masahuat has installed an Early Warning System which has a significant impact in improving the lives of the inhabitants. This has been possible through awareness raising, education and the commitment from organizations to address issues of climate change related vulnerability challenges.
The municipality of San Pedro Masahuat, in central El Salvador, has a successful experience in the implementation of Early Warning System (EWS).
The system is a part of the strategy of the local government to reduce the vulnerability and develop the capacity of the area to deal with floods and landslides as these disasters bring social, economic and environmental impacts on the municipality and the surrounding territories.
The implementation of the EWS includes the construction of a network of hydro-meteorological stations that provide real-time data, the use of software and hydrological models, scientific and hydrological analyses and information sharing.
The most important part of the EWS is the capacity building at the local level and the communication between community leaders and the population living in high risk areas. In other words, local monitoring is important, as well as the feedback and coverage from the network of local observers.
This has helped reduce the impacts of the disasters of the communities to climate change related vulnerabilities.
The response from the organized communities was exceptional and the communications protocol was implemented. The EWS worked perfectly - the result was zero victims in the municipality because of floods and landslides, despite the enormity of the phenomenon.
The political stability in the municipality since 2003, has been an asset to the risk management approach in the area because it has allowed a continued planning and training in the communities, as well as the acquisition of the right equipment for disaster response.
Having networks of organizations and leaders who are well trained, motivated and equipped to deal with the vulnerability of the territory - facilitates the operation of the established EWS has been crucial for the success of the system.
The administration in the municipality showed interest and political will to push the issue of vulnerability reduction and this ensured that the actions taken are sustainable over time.
The mobilization of financial resources is necessary, however, it is important that any administration will consider risk management as part of public investment and not depend on external funding.
Local people who are involved in the establishment of EWS must have time and interest to work on the system.
This approach has resulted in active citizen involvement in risk management of extreme events - before, during and after the event -which has resulted in minor impacts on the lives of the people in the area, despite the increasing level of threats that occur each year in the municipal territory.
Photo credit: David Amsler