Mapping Pakistan floods

Late July 2010, heavy rain caused record flooding in Pakistan, especially along the Kabul River in the northwestern part of the country.  The UN, governments and private organizations are joining forces to help. One of the means is to provide accurate and timely data about the situation on the ground. Maps, as supplied by many organisations, are very helpful for getting an overview of the problems, e.g. of the flood extension.

Pakistan_UNOSATThe main city of the area, Peshawar, is isolated by water. On the 31st of July, 800 deaths and thousands of affected people are reported by authorities. Material damage is also considerable and access to a lot of urban areas is impossible. The European Commission has allocated 30 millions euros to help people affected by this major disaster. In mid-August the state of emergency was reinforced in the southern province of Sindh due to the flood spreading in this region.

The United Nations, governments and private organizations are joining forces to help. One of the means is to provide accurate and timely data about the situation on the ground. Maps, as supplied by many organisations are very helpful for getting an overview of the problems, e.g. the flood extension.

To mention a few:

UNOCHA – The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has a dedicated website for One Response relating to Pakistan, with many maps.

Rapid Mapping Service — When a natural disaster occurs, the Rapid Mapping Service provides organisations in charge of major risks management (ministries, civil protection, local authority, UN, NGO, etc) with readily exploitable maps. Within eight hours, the Service converts satellite images of the disaster area into a map showing the geographical extent of the damages caused.

The International Charter aims at providing a unified system of space data acquisition and delivery to those affected by natural or man-made disasters through Authorized Users. Each member agency has committed resources to support the provisions of the Charter and thus is helping to mitigate the effects of disasters on human life and property.

UNOSAT — UNOSAT is the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Operational Satellite Applications Programme, implemented in co-operation with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). UNOSAT has produced a new satellite-based analysis of probable flood-affected villages, towns and infrastructure resulting from the advancing flood waters based on satellite imagery. Villages, towns, infrastructure sites as well as the length of roads and railway tracks within the detected flood water extent have been identified and quantified. Recent maps include:

  • Flood Water Outflow from Indus near Sukkur Barrage Entering Balochistan Province, Pakistan
  • Analysis of Flood-Affected Villages, Towns & Infrastructure, Sindh Province
  • Flood Waters near Sukkur Barrage, Sindh Province, Pakistan
  • Updated Flood Waters in Charsadda and Nowshera Districts, Pakistan
  • Damage Overview of Flood-Affected Towns In Nowshera District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
  • Updated Overview of Flood Waters in Punjab Province, Pakistan
  • Overview of Flood Waters in N.W.F.P. and Punjab Provinces, Pakistan
  • Overview of Flood Waters in Peshawar and Mardan Tehsils, N.W.F.P., Pakistan
  • Cyclone Phet: Flood Waters in Thatta & Mirpur Sakro Tehsils, Sindh, Pakistan
  • Potential Urban Flood Waters in Allahwala Town, Karachi East, Pakistan
  • Situation Map of Attabad Dam Site and Current Lake Extent, Hunza River, Hunza-Nagar District, Gilgit, Pakistan

ICIMOD Mountain Geoportal — Starting in July 2010, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan was hit by massive flooding due to monsoon rains. Flood waters have continued to move south through the Punjab and Sindh provinces, largely down the Indus River valley. Officials described the flooding in northwestern Pakistan as the worst since 1929. ICIMOD, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, has taken up rapid response mapping for the flood affected areas in three provinces with the support from Sentinel-Asia partners and the request received from UN Space-Aid to support SUPARCO, the national space agency of Pakistan. A wide range of flood products is generated on a daily basis to support space agencies and others involved in disaster management.

Pacific Disaster Center — its mission is to provide applied information research and analysis support for the development of more effective policies, institutions, programs and information products for the disaster management and humanitarian assistance communities of the Asia Pacific region and beyond. For their Pakistan Flood Response section in the DisasterAWARE viewer look under regional data.

USGS — For those involved in emergency response, the US Geological Survey stores a huge amount of daily updated data (e.g. from Landsat) on a dedicated FTP server with maps. Restrictions apply. For more information please contact the Secretariat of the Netherlands National Committee IHP-HWRP.

NASA’s Earth Observatory — The Earth Observatory’s mission is to share with the public the images, stories, and discoveries about climate and the environment that emerge from NASA research, including its satellite missions, in-the-field research, and climate models.

ReliefWeb — Source for “timely, reliable and relevant humanitarian information and analysis”. To help those engaged in humanitarian action make sense of humanitarian crises worldwide, ReliefWeb scans sources and ensures the most relevant content is readily available.

Center for Satellite Based Crisis Information (ZKI) — provides reference and flood maps, a service of the German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). It provides a 24/7 service for the rapid provision, processing and analysis of satellite imagery during natural and environmental disasters, for humanitarian relief activities and civil security issues worldwide. The resulting satellite-based information products are provided to relief organisations and public authorities.

Dartmouth Flood Observatory — based at the University of Colorado, it provides public access to large format jpeg inundation maps in UTM projection, and including inundation limits from earlier floods in this region, 2000 to present.

Dawn — Animated maps in a Flash special by Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest and most widely-read English-language newspaper. Pakistan's newspaper of record, it is considered to be something of a national institution. — To facilitate the day-to-day operations of the relief workers, WaterWatch has prepared daily maps of flooded land in entire Pakistan. The pixel size of 25 km is a consequence of using daily microwave images from NASAs Aqua satellite, a name that does justice to the provision of spatial information. WaterWatch has develop a flood model that uses the daily Aqua images, independent of cloud cover. While the 25 km pixel size of the images can be considered as a drawback, the coarse resolution provides daily updates and is fine enough for detecting sub-regions and moderate size villages with problems emerging from excess water.

ITHACA — Information Technology for Humanitarian Assistance, Cooperation and Action, is a non-profit association, founded in November 2006 by the Politecnico of Torino and the Higher Institute on Innovation Territorial Systems (Si.T.I.). It is located in the Politecnico of Torino campus. Through its partnership with the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the world’s largest operational humanitarian agency, ITHACA is envisioned as a centre of applied research developing IT products and services in support of humanitarian activities.

Lahore University of Management Sciences — Pakistan Flood Maps, providing mapping of 9000+ villages in flood affected areas. Pakistan Flood Maps is a collaborative effort by SUPARCO, Pakistan’s national space agency and Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Pakistan premier private-sector research university. The goal of this effort is to support the flood relief activities through the provision of usable and timely maps.

OpenStreetMap – Free geographic data.

Wikipedia – A wealthy source of information on the flooding, potential long-term effects, relief efforts, criticism on the response, flooding cause and past history.


If you have information on other useful data sources, please contact the Secretariat of the Netherlands National Committee IHP-HWRP.