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PROJECT: Understanding flood risk and resilience in eastern India


Project Reference: RSAS-0013

For nearly a decade it has been mandatory for every district in India to develop an annual District Disaster Management Plan (DDMP). However, where such plans have been developed there are significant challenges and limitations both in terms of process and output. Disaster management is still primarily understood as post-disaster relief and reconstruction, rather than risk reduction and wider resilience building. Integrating climate change considerations into disaster management planning remains a challenge, partly due to institutions working in silos.

“Line departments should be in the driving seat during the DDMP planning process as they hold the budget and authority to implement actions on the ground. But in reality it is usually left to the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) to develop the plan, which as a result is rarely implemented.” Shiraz Wajih, President, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG)

A new approach to effective district level disaster management has been demonstrated in Gorakhpur, Utter Pradesh a highly vulnerable flood prone area of eastern India. With CDKN support a local team from ISET and GEAG have built the capacity of the line departments and the DDMA, by providing evidence and technical inputs, to understand why and how to integrate climate change considerations into disaster management actions.

The DDMA was the entry for improving capacities across the district government to integrate DRR and CA into local planning, as they are mandated to prepare the DDMP and have the authority to converge all departments at district level. Focusing on the role of the DDMA as a key bridging agency, the research explored two central questions:

  • What are the systemic factors within regions that contribute to resilience or exacerbate vulnerability?
  •  What specific policy innovations could help to bridge the vertical gap between the integrated national policy framework and local contexts and the horizontal gap between actions within sectoral development programmes to integrate DRR and CCA practice?

Methodologically the research involved mapping key systems (such as water supply, health, power, communication, housing and agriculture) of Gorakhpur district, and analyzing their vulnerability (in terms of exposure, fragility or failure rates and risks) to flooding both currently and under projected changes in climate using existing downscaled scenario results. (For example, see a Map of the district’s flood prone areas). This was coupled with a detailed study of the DDMA and sectoral agencies operating in Gorakhpur to understand institutional and operational barriers to integrating DRR and CCA.

Read a Policy Brief summarising the central findings of the research.

This research was conducted in a truly participatory fashion, utilising ‘shared learning dialogues’ as a platform to engage across sectors and at different levels. (For example, read a report of a State level workshop in March 2013 on the need for integration of DRM and CCA, as well as District Departmental Workshop Meeting Reports including for the Education, Health, Irrigation departments.) To build local research capacity to understand and address the shared risks of disaster and climate change, a training session was organised in September 2013.

The result was that the district government understood the need for a cross-sectoral integrated approach to DRM and reformulated their DDMP to reflect this. The research was therefore a catalyst for the DDMA to facilitate a multi-sectoral participatory planning process that led to a 2013 DDMP that was truly ‘climate-compatible’. (A hindi version of the Plan and Guidelines have been published). This annual planning process was repeated in 2014 without any external support.

This approach to planning has been documented to facilitate wider uptake. See the final ‘Process Document‘ for the comprehensive description of the approach.

Gorakhpur has become a model district in bottom-up, integrated planning for disaster management. The State Government has written to all 75 districts in the state directing them to follow the process taken by Gorakhpur. The approach has also been written up as a training module which the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) is now using to train disaster management officials from across the country. (See NIDM’s training module on the Gorakhpur model)

A CDKN ‘Inside Story’ written by the project team outlines learning from the project and how others can replicate their success.

Principal Investigator: Shiraz A. Wajih, Gorakhpur Environment Action Group (GEAG), India

Main Co-investigators: Anil Kumar Gupta, National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), GoIndia, Marcus Moench, Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET), USA, Vinod Kumar Sharma, Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA), India.

CDKN funding: £67,620

Project Manager: Dina Khan

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Project Highlights

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POLICY BRIEF: Getting climate smart for disasters

This short brief, Climate Smart Disaster Risk Management: In brief, explores how the Climate Smart Disaster Risk Management (CSDRM) approach provides a guide to strategic planning, programme development and policymaking and should be used to assess the effectiveness of existing DRM policies, projects and programmes in the context of a changing climate.
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