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NORMAN, Okla. – University of Oklahoma professor Yang Hong, associate professor in OU’s School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Sciences, recently received a $500,000 grant from the Pakistan – U.S. Science and Technology Cooperation Program.
Hong’s project, titled “Capacity Building in Disaster Risk Assessment and Management through Training and Research in Geo-informatics and Hydrometeorological Hazard Risk Reduction Strategies,” focuses on increasing Pakistan’s capacity to reduce the risk of damage from potential natural disasters, including developing an early warning system for floods by integrating real-time remote sensing information and predictive hydrometeorological models. It was one of only 28 selected from 270 applications submitted to the program.

“Pakistan is a country prone to hydrometeorological disasters – flooding, landslides and droughts,” said Hong. “Monsoon flooding that began in late July has now affected 20 million people in Pakistan. This has left one-fifth of the country underwater and prompted intense and sustained relief assistance from the United States and other international donors. “These recent floods in Pakistan have underlined the need for countries to be better prepared for extreme weather events. Currently, the flood risk assessment and management system in Pakistan deals with rescue and relief. Adequate adaptation practices need to be strengthened and people’s local capacities to adapt need to be supported and enforced. The early warning system will help map flood zones, determine the potential economic impact of flooding and reduce the risk of damage and fatalities in vulnerable communities.”

The major outcome of this project is to develop local capacities through trainings, disaster risk-reduction research, student and faculty exchanges, workshops and seminars. Ultimately, the project should build the national capacity of Pakistan in natural disaster risk mitigation through training and research in geographical information science, according to Hong. “We are likely to see more extreme events in the future, particularly in the Hindu-Kush Himalayan region, and the international climate, water and development communities need to ensure that adequate support is channeled to the region in a way that enforces ongoing ‘best practices in adaptation,’” said Shahid Habib, project collaborator and chief of the Office of Applied Sciences at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

In addition to serving as an OU professor, Hong is an affiliated faculty member in the Atmospheric Radar Research Center at the National Weather Center and the associate director of the Center for Natural Hazard and Disaster Research.

This project is a collaboration between OU and Pakistan’s National University of Science and Technology. The project will be completed in three years. Slightly more than half of the total budget will be spent training Pakistani university academics in disaster prediction and risk management techniques.
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