Accelerate policy and community-resilient measures
India is highly vulnerable to various natural hazards such as droughts, floods, heat waves and cyclones. The effects of climate change are adding a new and more intractable dimension to the existing risk profile of vulnerable areas. It is believed that climate change will alter the number, severity, frequency and complexity of climate-induced hazards. With this uncertainty, and more importantly, with new areas experiencing extreme events, it becomes critical to adopt an integrated climate risk management approach. Odisha is evidentially vulnerable to multiple disasters. Due to its subtropical littoral location, the State is prone to tropical cyclones, storms, surges and tsunamis.
According to the source of the OSDMA (Odisha State Disaster Management Authority), the State has experienced cyclones 12 times till now. Also the 482-kilometre-long coastline of Odisha exposes the State to floods, cyclones and storm surges. As a result of this, many people have lost their lives; live stocks perished; and houses were washed away; roads and other means of communication and transportations damaged and the livelihoods like agriculture were lost, causing a huge burden to the State’s economy.
Odisha has also experienced heat waves that caused losses of people’s lives. Heat wave refers to an exceptional increase of temperature in the atmosphere; is frequent especially in the western and south-western part of the State. If we take an example, the State had to face an unprecedented heat wave in 1998 when 2,042 persons lost their lives. The poor people were the worst affected.
Counting the adverse impact of climate-induced disasters in Odisha, cyclone has been a major devastation blow. The seashore villages are suffering with increasing salinity of their firm lands. It poses damage to standing crops in the lands and severe littoral deposits, waterlogging due to river surge. Crop loss, decrease of wetlands, sand casting and parched lands due to drought have made people of the State suffer with nature’s worst impact in their lives.
It is needed to consider the impact of climate change and climate-induced disasters on existing programmes and activities, but adding the considerations of its vulnerability to existing programmes and activities is very necessary if adaptation is to take place in a way that affects the population and development. Unless these linkages are not considered, people’s development cannot be addressed properly.
Adaptation and coping mechanisms
Various adaptive measures and coping mechanisms have been taken to minimise the vulnerability during the occurrence of a disaster in terms of damage and destruction of lives and properties. Odisha was in many ways a pioneer in drafting the climate plan that includes nearly as many mitigation and adaption plans driven by financial and economic considerations. The State Government has implemented SRI (Systematic Rice Intensification), aggressive plantation in degraded areas, construction of multipurpose cyclone shelter, promotion of water use efficiency and climate-resilient crop varieties to improve the sustained ability of a commodity to utilise available resources to respond to, withstand and recover from the adverse situations.
Future policy implications
It is known that the geographical and climatic conditions of Odisha pose a constant challenge of natural disasters, which cannot be stopped but can only be minimised through both immediate and long-term planning. There has been a growing awareness on the disaster impacts and its consequences among people, especially the commendable evacuating and messaging work done by the State Government during the cyclone Phailin. However, in most of the cases, the disaster response has remained as an instant humanitarian support in many ways. There is need of reviewing the development planning of the State wherein the disaster and climate change issues get priorities and actions and related strategies must be reflected in the line departments including the responsible department.
To come up to the expectation of affected communities and to steer the local economy go on, there are some of the policy implications that can help the State prepare and mitigate climate-induced disaster in a more capable manner. First of all, there is a need of proactive, pro-people, timely and effective disaster response with a dedicated leadership and political willingness. This includes coordination, preplanning and effective implementation of disaster preparedness action plan and climate change action plan. Secondly, the State Government should prioritise and make available infrastructures, road communications and transport systems, ensuring of essential services delivery like food and clothing, health and hygiene and drinking water.
Community resilience is also as important as other priority sectors to deal with the disasters. Therefore, actions must be strategised to capacitate people’s existing knowledge to adapt and develop coping capacity on disasters through training, handholding support as well as include all the disaster-affected people through various social safety nets and social security schemes. Last but not the least, there is a need of better coordination and joint efforts of GO-NGO, inter-departmental coordination and use participatory vulnerability analysis as well as community-driven disaster response plan to minimise the devastations and damages by disasters to the communities who are frequently being affected by these catastrophes.
(The writer is a columnist, an author and a social activist. He can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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