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Most Flood-prone State in India likely to be Aided by New Satellite Mapping

Since floods started in the state last month, more than 200 people have died and more than 300,000 have been forced from their homes

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FILE - Indians watch from the upper floor of their house flooding in the river Ganges in Allahabad, India, Aug. 23, 2016. VOA
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Every year India’s northeastern state of Bihar is deluged by floods that submerge roads, destroy homes and wash away crops, leaving the disaster management authority struggling to monitor and assess the damage, and to distribute aid effectively.

But new satellite mapping of flood-prone areas should transform disaster response by equipping authorities with near real-time information about inundated villages, officials said.

Bihar, which borders the Himalayan nation of Nepal, is India’s most flood-prone state. More than 70 percent of its total geographical area is at risk of annual floods, which put lives at risk and lead to heavy financial losses.

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A major challenge for the Bihar state disaster management authority (BSDMA) has been mapping and monitoring flood-hit areas, according to the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), which works to promote development across the Hindu Kush Himalayas.

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Since floods started in the state last month, more than 200 people have died and more than 300,000 have been forced from their homes, disaster officials said.

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ICOMOD has helped generate innovative flood mapping for 33 districts in Bihar and an online flood information system that is allowing faster response to a crisis, quicker damage assessment, and better risk management than with conventional methods, said officials from ICIMOD, based in Kathmandu.

“Traditionally, field teams are organized and dispatched to flooded areas to map floods. This can be time-consuming and operationally difficult during a flooding event,” Shahriar M. Wahid, a senior ICIMOD hydrologist, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation via email.

While “satellite-sourced flood maps alone cannot provide early warning to [the] at-risk population”, he said, satellite data, in combination with flood simulations, can do this.

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If flash floods triggered by torrential rain occur in Nepal, Bihar’s residents can expect to see inundations about eight hours later, according to data from the BSDMA. Wahid said the new flood maps will be most useful for the distribution of relief, assessment of damages and to determine crop insurance payouts, among other benefits.

The project uses satellite technology that penetrates cloud cover, unlike optics-based satellite imagery. This is useful in the Himalayan region where monsoons bring thick clouds.

Flood maps can be generated within five to six hours after raw satellite data is received. The floods are circulated to government officials and relief agencies through a satellite communication network.

Space satellite technology is often touted by disaster relief experts as an important tool in managing the growing number of climate-linked disasters around the world.

But the cost of such technology for developing countries, even fast-growing ones like India, can be a challenge. ICIMOD is able to obtain some satellite data and images at no cost, which it then passes to the government for free, it said.

For many residents of Bihar’s capital, Patna, prevention is the first step towards building resilience against floods that are increasing in intensity and frequency due to climate change.

Satellite maps can also aid prevention because they act as a template for years to come, recording rainfall patterns and data from the water department, among other factors, ICIMOD said.

“The very principles of urban planning in Bihar need a drastic review,” said social worker Kumar Gaurav.

Planning “must now take into account global warming, intense and concentrated rainfall along with the construction boom that is responsible for high-rises on the Ganga’s riverbed and floodplains,” he said. (VOA)

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Aadhaar Helpline Mystery: French Security Expert Tweets of doing a Full Disclosure Tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App

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Google sacks dozens over sexual harassment. Wikimedia Commons

Google’s admission that it had in 2014 inadvertently coded the 112 distress number and the UIDAI helpline number into its setup wizard for Android devices triggered another controversy on Saturday as India’s telecom regulator had only recommended the use of 112 as an emergency number in April 2015.

After a large section of smartphone users in India saw a toll-free helpline number of UIDAI saved in their phone-books by default, Google issued a statement, saying its “internal review revealed that in 2014, the then UIDAI helpline number and the 112 distress helpline number were inadvertently coded into the SetUp wizard of the Android release given to OEMs for use in India and has remained there since”.

Aadhaar Helpline Number Mystery: French security expert tweets of doing a full disclosure tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App, Image: Wikimedia Commons.

However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended only in April 2015 that the number 112 be adopted as the single emergency number for the country.

According to Google, “since the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list, these get  transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device”.

Google was yet to comment on the new development.

Meanwhile, French security expert that goes by the name of Elliot Alderson and has been at the core of the entire Aadhaar controversy, tweeted on Saturday: “I just found something interesting. I will probably do full disclosure tomorrow”.

“I’m digging into the code of the @Google SetupWizard app and I found that”.

“As far as I can see this object is not used in the current code, so there is no implications. This is just a poor coding practice in term of security,” he further tweeted.

On Friday, both the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) as well as the telecom operators washed their hand of the issue.

While the telecom industry denied any role in the strange incident, the UIDAI said that he strange incident, the UIDAI said that some vested interests were trying to create “unwarranted confusion” in the public and clarified that it had not asked any manufacturer or telecom service provider to provide any such facility.

Twitter was abuzz with the new development after a huge uproar due to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R.S. Sharma’s open Aadhaar challenge to critics and hackers.

Ethical hackers exposed at least 14 personal details of the TRAI Chairman, including mobile numbers, home address, date of birth, PAN number and voter ID among others. (IANS)

Also Read: Why India Is Still Nowhere Near Securing Its Citizens’ Data?