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PHOTO STORY: Projects across Asia hope to unite disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation efforts

Five CDKN-funded projects under way across South Asia aim to integrate disaster risk reduction measures with efforts to adapt to climate change. The projects plan to shape policies and management systems that will help communities become more resilient to disasters such as earthquakes, floods and water shortages.

Each of the projects is composed of interdisciplinary research teams and coordinated independently,” explains Sarah Schweizer, Program Associate at START (global change SysTem for Analysis Research & Training) which is managing the projects, “But we plan to bring the researchers together to share their experiences through events such as a Science-Policy Dialogue and a Research and Learning Forum. Researchers will look at institutional arrangements, governance structures and policy innovations in the context of each community’s particular vulnerabilities.”

The projects are being carried out at locations in the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir, Rajastan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal and Sikkim; plus in the Koshi River Basin in Nepal. Having started in the summer of 2012, most are at the stage of holding workshops to engage local communities, finding out what their specific vulnerabilities are then acting on those findings.

For example, in Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir, project organiser SEEDS conducted a workshop to discuss the district’s response to flash floods in 2010. This sudden storm damaged 71 towns and villages, including Leh town. Around 250 people died and 9000 people were affected by the floods, debris flows and mudslides.

Participants at the workshop felt that the government’s disaster management plan, developed after the floods, was mostly a relief plan that did not address issues of risk from climate change impacts. When SEEDS staff surveyed 500 farming households in ten villages that make up Sakti, they identified the area as being at high risk not only from flash floods but water scarcity, earthquakes, pest infestation and war.

Working with local farmers, the SEEDS team have now developed village-level plans of high-risk areas that form the basis for a disaster-risk-reduction and climate adaptation plan. In combination, these form a plan for the wider Sakti area that could, in time, be scaled up to district level.

A survey conducted with farmers to identify how well they understand weather conditions showed that 100 per cent of them recognised that the climatic conditions had changed in the area. Heavy snow of around three or four feet thick is no longer the norm; today the snow is only six inches to one foot thick and melts quickly, causing water shortages. Fans are now required in the summer where previously they were not needed.

The SEEDS team installed an automatic weather station in a community centre in Sakti, as part of plans for a climate field school. The school will train farmers to monitor weather conditions and use them to generate forecasts with the help of the India Meteorological Department, Jammu and Kashmir. Meanwhile, the local Department of Agromet (agriculture and meteorological) Services will help farmers apply the forecasts to their farming practises. Come February and March, when the sowing season begins, the data will help the farmers plan out their cropping strategies.

The five projects will conclude by December 2013 and researchers will participate in the Research and Learning Forum. “Researchers and communities will have key recommendations on how governance and institutions should be structured and how policy-makers can begin to shape responses to disasters in unison with climate change adaptation efforts. We’re excited to create a space to catalyse knowledge sharing, creative strategising and future collaboration through face-to-face meetings between participating researchers and other relevant experts.”

Each of the five projects received around £65,000–67,000 from CDKN. The links to the projects on CDKN’s project pages are:

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