The Averted Disaster Award (ADA) has named the Amrita Centre for Wireless Networks and Applications (AWNA)as the winner of its 2023 award for outstanding disaster risk management intervention. This prestigious recognition was announced at the 11th Global Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Humanitarian Action, held in Berlin, during a three-day conference.
Created in December 2021, ADA is an annual competition that seeks to bring visibility to successful disaster risk management programs and policies around the world. The organisation stated that AWNA earned the award for their work in integrating landslide early warning technology and engaging communities for emergency preparedness and resilience in the Himalayas and Western Ghats regions of India.
Dr Maneesha Vinodini Ramesh, Director of AWNA, was present to accept the honour. As she explains, “Early warning is one of the most important things in any disaster management because the primary outcome is saving lives. So how do you save lives?
“You have to give them enough time to get prepared, then move out of the place. We have always focused on looking into all the domains which play into the initiation of landslides, and at the same time, how you can capture these signals ahead of time.”
Based at the Kollam campus of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, AWNA is a cutting-edge, interdisciplinary R&D centre with the vision of promoting, developing, and applying the use of wireless technologies to benefit society. The award ceremony featured the premier of a short documentary film titled “Living Without Fear”, which highlights the achievements of the award-winning organization.
“The Averted Disaster Award’s objective is to bring attention to effective risk reduction interventions that often go unnoticed,” said Dr David Lallemant, Co-founder of the ADA and an Assistant Professor at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
“India, one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, faces a significant landslide threat in areas like Munnar and its surroundings. With the Averted Disaster Award, our aim is to illuminate impactful initiatives such as this one, facilitating their replication, adaptation, and scaling in communities that require them.”
Dr Shanna McClain, Disasters Program Manager at NASA, ADA Selection Committee Member, and host of the award ceremony said, “Amrita’s collaborative approach bringing together scientists and the community is an example of best practice in developing effective disaster risk technology.”
She added, “When at-risk communities are engaged as implementing partners from the outset, they are more likely to follow emergency guidance and develop long-term community resilience.”
AWNA has effectively predicted landslides and saved lives through their communication and emergency training within affected communities. It developed the world’s first AI-powered early landslide warning system for rain-induced landslides. The system enhances community-scale disaster resilience and is deployed for real-time monitoring. It consists of a set of IoT based sensor systems (Intelligent Wireless Probe) deployed beneath earth’s surface. Data is transmitted in real-time to the central management centre.
In case of an imminent landslide, multi-level warnings are automatically delivered to the State Disaster Management Authority and district officials to evacuate people to safer regions till the threat is mitigated.
It was first implemented in Munnar, Kerala in 2009 and has successfully given alerts and saved many lives. An upgraded version was established in Chandmari, Gangtok, Sikkim in 2018. Monitoring has included reporting the rate of movement of the Chandmari Hill to Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority.
Scientists worked with community members to understand the challenges of living in landslide prone areas and collaborated and co-designed solutions with them. The community members hold social responsibility and actively participate in taking steps for monitoring and reacting when landslide dangers are imminent.