SUPARCO – How Pakistan Used Space-Based Data to Map 2014 Floods

Severe flooding struck in Azad Kashmir, Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan in early September 2014. Over 2.5 million people were affected by the flooding and nearly 700,000 people were evacuated.

Flood warnings were issued by the Flood Forecasting Division (FFD) of the Pakistan Meteorological Department on 4 September 2014, highlighting the likelihood of very high flooding from the overflowing rivers Chenab, Jhelum and Ravi.

A remarkable feature of the September 2014 floods was the data made available by Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Regular updates via the NDMA and other related websites offered information on current and forecast rain and river levels, as well as detailed maps of the affected areas (both current and predicted), with details about the villages and population numbers in those areas.

In order to get reliable data on the September 2014 flood situation, the NDMA and Provincial Disaster Management Authority requested the assistance of the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) of Pakistan.

SUPARCO – Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission

SUPARCO, which is also a UN-SPIDER Regional Support Office, began to monitor the 2014 floods soon after the issuance of the flood alert on 4 September.

SUPARCO deployed a technical expert to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority’s office in Lahore and provided pre-flood maps of flood-affected rivers along with maps showing hydrographs (discharge data) of rivers at key locations. A thematic map highlighting deaths/injuries in each affected districts and losses and damages to infrastructure were also forwarded to concerned agencies.


Map and Data Sharing via the Internet

SUPARCO generated Rapid Maps of 29 districts showing inundation and flood extents in each district which were uploaded to the web for interactive visualization of the daily inundation extent.

In order to develop an effective flood monitoring framework for rapid information dissemination, a web portal (SUPARCO FloodWatch 2014) was developed and integrated into NDMA’s national Disaster Information website, which can be found here.

Based on rapid mapping and detailed damage assessment, SUPARCO was able to provide the NDMA with cumulative flood extent maps on a daily basis.

It also provided maps and assessments of damaged infrastructure, including crops, and monitor breaches in dams and embankments.It also supplied thematic maps showing 7-day profile hydrographs (based on river discharge data) on Khanki, Qadirabad, Trimmu Barrages.

Recovery Need Assessment

Once the flood water had receded, satellite-based information proved very significant in estimation of losses in crops, irrigation infrastructure and other sectors in the flood affected areas.

The overall Recovery Need Assessment (RNA) report was presented to the Government of Pakistan by the National Disaster Management Authority on 11 November 2014. In this report, in addition to the in-situ field information provided by Provincial Government Departments, satellite-based information proved very significant in estimation of losses in crops, irrigation infrastructure and other sectors in the flood affected areas.

For more information, see the report from UN Spider here.