Thursday, 12 October 2017

Delivering Results and Working in Partnership: Two Key Concepts for South Asia to Accelerate Building Urban Resilience

South Asia has so much to offer to ARP in terms of reducing risks and building resilience. As we celebrate International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR) 2017, urgent ways must be found to leverage this advantage.

– Mihir R. Bhatt

While working on Duryog Nivaran's (DN's) flagship knowledge product titled South Asia Disaster Report 2016 (SADR 2016): Build Back Better (BBB) several ideas became clearer.  These ideas, mostly on urban resilience, are of use in implementing Asian Regional Plan (ARP) on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in South Asia.  For the success of ARP it is important, one, to deliver results, and two, to work in partnership.  These two concepts, if put into action in South Asia, will profoundly improve the impact of ARP.

Duryog Nivaran is a South Asia network of individuals and institutions looking at alternative ways to reduce risks that local communities face. DN was one of the first to initiate work on urban risk with Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) in South Asia in early 1990s.

SADR is a series of thought provoking reports that aim at changing the way we understand disasters: as a given, top-down, and asset centric. SADR 2016 builds on previous such reports to accelerate Building Back Better in South Asia.

The Asian Regional Plan was developed as a follow up to Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) and was accepted at the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) in November 2016, Delhi. Urban resilience is high on the ARP agenda.

Asia is a home to some of the most vulnerable cities in the world as well as a hub of some of the most proactive cities promoting risk resilience. Asian Development Bank (ADB) is active in investing in cities in Asia to take a lead in building resilience.

Many urban resilience initiatives in South Asia face delay in delivering the results as well as failing to mobilise a partnership in cities. The following actions are suggested to help in building such partnerships.

First, it is important – to start with – to have at least one well planned and well articulated project to be successful in delivering the results as well as in its partnerships.  Such a project changes lives of many urban projects. There is no South Asia wide review of key urban resilience projects to see what successes partnerships and results look like.

Second, community participation is important in delivering results and making partnerships work around DRR. Well planned and well resourced community participation is important to deliver results. Role of children in such participation is a key in South Asia. More work is needed to find ways to get better and sustained results of community participation.

Third, women and children must have more say in shaping the results of urban resilience and making partnerships work at the local level in cities. Direct focus on poor women and vulnerable children is essential while results are achieved and partnerships are made in a cities.

Fourth, connectivity is spreading in South Asian cities and ARP must build on this rapid spread of connectivity in cities to understand and act on resilience.  Though several initiatives are taken to find ways to use connectivity to reduce risk; pathways for cities to follow are yet to be traced and strengthened in South Asia.

Fifth, water is a key to air and land related urban work and in South Asia water is often a starting point for urban resilience building. It may be too much of water which results in floods – or the lack of water. The interplay of water, cities, and resilience in South Asia needs more attention in project planning and ideation by national authorities.

Sixth, being resilient can be faster and sustainable if cities learn from own work and the work of others. Often each city invents its own solution which takes time and resources but in many cases (not all) another city in South Asia has already invented a solution that can be widely used.  Heatwave Action Plan by Climate Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) in Ahmedabad is an example of city-to-city learning takes place.

Delivering results and working in partnership is important to implement ARP. SADR 2016 is about to be launched in South Asia in November 2017 and will help towards the implementation of the ARP.

- AIDMI Team

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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Youth Leadership: Source of Energy for Building Community Resilience

The All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI) has always embraced the idea of youth leadership in the field of disaster risk reduction (DRR). Since 1987, AIDMI has been consistently inviting students (from 33 countries) and fresh graduates to work on local aspects of DRR across all levels of key action. Till date, 121 students have worked with AIDMI as interns or team members. By working with the policy makers, practitioners, partners and critics involved in the DRR sector of South Asia, these interns have promoted youth leadership in the changing landscape of humanitarian action in the region. They offer fresh and new ideas and pick up work that often seems insurmountable.

AIDMI invests in youth and their leadership as against buildings and campus facilitates. The returns of this investment to the society and the DRR sector are enormous.

The following document the experiences of AIDMI interns during their periods, how the experiences enrich their knowledge in DRR, enhance their professional working skills, as well as understanding of context in India. Later, many of which have applied to their work field and future career.

Musings on AIDMI Internship
Working in AIDMI enabled me to understand very aspects of being successful in the field of disaster risk reduction (DRR). The first thing I realized was that communication is usually an essential aspect to success in this field. It is also important for an individual to have the ability of multi-tasking during the working hours and as a Disaster Manager we don't have a fixed working hour, we should be willing to work whenever risk wants us to. Risk keeps no working hours.

Working at AIDMI helped me to understand the importance of asking the right questions at the right time. On the other hand, I also realized that it is important to maintain punctuality in order to be successful.

Risks are not punctual. Risks strike any time. We can address this situation by making our risk reduction efforts punctual.

Another key to effective work in the DRR entails that an individual has to have a professional attitude in order to fit in. At the same time, one should have the ability to network with people in the chosen professional field. Both are important and a balance has to be gained. This balance I experienced at AIDMI.

All the team members were really supportive. What I am taking back from this internship is the infinite amount of experience in the field of Disaster Management which will make me a responsible and a successful citizen in future, to continue as a professional in this field and help India to overcome from any disaster risk.
– Russi Singh

From the day I started working with AIDMI, I found the AIDMI team very cooperative. They helped us everywhere whenever we needed them. I learned about so many things in class but at AIDMI I actually saw how DRR works. I learned about key aspects of Child Centred Disaster Risk Reduction. AIDMI has so much going on and it is upto us to understand, reflect, and make use of the experience. AIDMI gave me a platform where I learned so many new things about risk and how to move to resilience building. With this, I would like to thank Mr. Mihir Bhatt and the entire team of AIDMI for giving me such learning environment.
– Ashish Dangar

During my internship at AIDMI, I got an opportunity to learn a lot of things about disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and how both can be integrated at local level. It was my first experience of working on a local planning project with local authorities. This experience helped me to understand how the government departments work and strive to reduce risks. Perhaps the most important thing that I learnt during my internship was the different perception of disasters among different people. Risk has many faces and many incarnations. The difference in the way risks are perceived by different departments also dictates how they prepare for them. I am grateful to Brijbhai for giving me this opportunity to explore many ways of learning about risks citizens of India face.
– Renuka Poonia

The experience of working with AIDMI for the preparation of District Disaster Management Plan (DDMP) was very satisfying. The wide range of tasks which I was asked to lead added to my professional skills and understanding. Particularly working in rural areas of Chhattisgarh was completely different from my experience of working in rural areas of Maharashtra. How often we overlook our tribal citizens. Apart from community consultations, working in office was a learning experience. It certainly provided an environment for enhancing professionalism. As the DDMP was made with the support of UNICEF, it gave an idea of how do NGOs work in collaboration with other agencies as well as the administration. Meeting the deadlines and having the pressure of deadlines helped in understanding the vast significance of punctuality. Moreover, the experience improved my knowledge of ground dynamics of risks and disaster management sector, theoretical as well as practical. Documentations, photo quotations, interactions with various line departments, guidance from Vandanaben and Vipulbhai greatly added to my awesome journey with AIDMI!
– Suresh L. Borkar

Working with the AIDMI has helped me in honing the skills required to be a successful disaster manager. A healthy blend of professionalism and empathy along with deep respect for the local community was central to my AIDMI experience. People are in the centre of any DRR activities at AIDMI. The documentation of the details gathered through the hazard and vulnerability analysis from the communities and authorities was remarkable and helped me in understanding various risks to which a community is exposed to. I also learned how to coordinate and collaborate with government departments and other non-government agencies to achieve common objectives. Risk cannot be understood from only one point of view. Most importantly, the mentoring and guidance I received from Vipulbhai and Brijbhai at AIDMI was critical in making my internship experience fulfilling and rewarding.
– Akshay W.

The best thing about AIDMI is that, it has never given the youth a feeling of being interns at any time. We represented AIDMI whenever we went to meet higher authorities or to the last person in the community. The guidance and support received by the field team and seniors for food and accommodations, field visits and documentations and what to focus on has helped us to groom and learn a lot. The forty days helped us to gain professional skills of documentation, drafting of letters, presentations, data analysis and extracting of data and information from the readings, photo and quotes helped me in understanding the different aspects of risk reduction.
– Vaibhav Naresh Raut

The internship has helped me in building professional networks among DRR experts and improving upon my risk communication skills at a professional level, which I feel would be a great asset in building stronger relationships (at a personal as well as professional level) with whom I would be working with in the near future. During our day-to-day conversations with our mentors, I also came to know from Vandanaben about certain approaches of advancing in this field of disaster management, owing to its novelty yet growing significance in the contemporary world. Concrete work speaks volumes in this fast growing DRR sector. The working environment in the field as well as in office proved to be quite challenging due to the deliverables that were to be met on everyday basis in order to complete the plans within the specified time. Risks do not wait. So, risk reduction plans cannot wait. However, this rush got balanced with the friendly, cordial and supportive nature of our mentors. It was with their experience and guidance that the deliverables could be completed on time. On a personal note, I believe that this sort of balanced environment is necessary for every employer as well as for any task to be completed within a specified time limit.
– Jyotirmoy Deb Goswami

Way Ahead
AIDMI is inviting youth to work on areas of risk and culture; uncertainty in risk reduction; why some DRR projects make poor worse off; and who is best suited to reduce risk at the lowest level of the economy.

Perhaps the greatest contribution of these youth leaders to AIDMI has been their novel perspectives on risk reduction and climate adaptation which are totally unencumbered with existing narrative. One such intern is now a young ambassador of a leading Asian country. The other intern shapes the UN thinking on DRR in Geneva. A fresh graduate has moved on to lead response operations for a leading international NGO based in UK, while another youth has moved on to work with a leading management consulting firm. Their idealism, sincerity and dedication are infectious and inspiring in equal measure. AIDMI has been fortunate to work with such youth leaders from all across the world and re-iterates its commitment to do so in future as well.
– Kshitij Gupta of AIDMI.

"After the local community leaders and authority officials the youth at AIDMI has been my sustained source of energy".
– Mihir R. Bhatt

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School as a key to reducing people affected by disasters by 2030

The schools are considered to be the main key to move closer to reducing the number of affected people by disasters by 2030 in South Asia.

International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR) began in 1989, after a call by the UN General Assembly for a day to promote a global culture of risk-awareness and disaster reduction. Held every 13th of October, the day celebrates how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters and raising awareness. The 2017 edition continues as part of the 'Sendai Seven' campaign. This year the focus is on Target B - substantially reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030, aiming to lower the average global figure per 100000 between 2020-2030 compared to 2005-2015.

All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI) is celebrating the IDDR 2017 by capturing lessons from the last 12 months actions with 1471 schools to promote and strengthen safe education that saves lives and reduces the number of affected people by any disasters (including local and climate related risks - accident, heat waves, or heavy rains in the case of schools).

During the IDDR 2016 celebration, AIDMI announced to link each school safety training with the preparation of School Disaster Management Plan (SDMP) by trained educators. The commitment resulted into 915 SDMPs that were prepared by educators themselves based on the training lessons. Various agencies joined this year-long action – state and district disaster management authorities; UN agencies, city municipal corporation; and 1471 schools. The SDMP is becoming a tool to prepare a plan at school level as well as connecting school communities to come closure and join efforts that are raising awareness and preparing against local hazards among young generation. “Our joint efforts must result into equipping school teachers and students with the knowledge and skills that may potentially save their lives as well as avoiding emergency situation to happened in school” said by Mr. Kaustav Talukdar, Kamrup Metro District Disaster Management Authority Officer, India.

The SDMP is also supporting schools to address climate related risk like school announcements based on heat waves alerts by authorities during summer and heavy rain alerts during monsoon. ”The culture of disaster management needs to be imbibed in a society for which the motto of “catch them young” sounds prudent as a whole new generation’s becoming the flag bearers of DRR and trained in preparedness, response, mitigation, including climatic sensitization towards sustainable community.” - said Vrindhanath M C, with Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation, City Coordinator, UNDP, India.

The schools are key platform for local implementation of the Sendai framework, especially achieving targets – B, and D. As not every hazard has devastating consequences, a combination of natural, cultural, social and political factors contributes to disasters. The school is the key platform to address these local situations effectively. During the 2005-2015 HFA period, India as well as many other countries generated evidence on how schools can be safe as well as how safe schools can contribute to safer community.

The knowledge exchange platform is playing very important role in school safety as AIDMI's support to institutions in Maldives and Myanmar in South Asia resulted into institutionalization of safe education component.

AIDMI based on the 2001 Gujarat earthquake initiated safer schools campaign that expanded from Gujarat state to 12 states of India and neighborhood countries in South Asia. AIDMI along with government institutions, UN agencies, universities and networks is taking various actions with schools emphasizing on local implementation of India's National Disaster Management Plan.

- Vishal Pathak, AIDMI

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Monday, 21 August 2017

Transformation: Initiatives Towards Resilience

Transformation is by nature multidisciplinary; by definition it combines past with future in the present by operating simultaneously on different systems and concepts. Insurance, markets, and private sector are some of the ingredients that can be leveraged by the humanitarian system to transform cities. We have more data than we have ever had, which gives us an opportunity to compare cities, communities, periods and stages of recovery to make transformation a reality.
Can cutting edge innovations that integrate disaster risk reduction with climate change adaptation transform our views on risk from the standpoint of individuals, institutions and investments that shape resilience?
AIDMI's two decades of work in South Asia has shown that "Uncertainty" is an opportunity for transformation. Dr. Lyla Mehta of IDS, drawing from her ongoing field work on Climate Change, Uncertainty and Transformation in the desert of Kutch and delta areas of Sunderbans, has often mentioned that transformation is a bottom up process where marginal voices, more specifically poor women's voices, are central. This issue also highlights an institutional effort in the desert of Kutch to transform the lives of the locals by the Gujarat Institute of Desert Ecology (GUIDE), reported by Dr. V. Vijay Kumar and Dr. Anjan Kumar Prusty.
Risk is never insular, it is always compounded by underlying vulnerabilities, which if not addressed in time can precipitate into disasters. AIDMI has found this reality in over 23 evaluations and reviews of risk and resilience projects in South Asia. Dr. Lars Otto of IDS, who is also working on the Climate Change, Uncertainty and Transformation project, opines that a way to approach transformation is through landscape analysis which is a first step towards transformation.
Dr. Aliza Pradhan and Dr. R.V. Bhavani from Chennai share M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation's (MSSRF) work that shows that the risks faced in agriculture are linked with the risks faced in coastal areas. Agriculture and farmers are a key to any coastal transformation towards resilience. Dr. Rajib Prakash Baruah from Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), Guwahati, shares a way to approach the landscape of risk: mock drills. Such drills address a wide range of risks and measure the capacity of a system to respond to their impact.
Through AIDMI's work in over 56 cities it has been found that any transformation of a city is multidisciplinary by its very nature. Cities are many Things, many places, spread across different times. All versions of the city co-exist in collaboration as well as in conflict. Dr. Parthasarthy of IIT, in his work on Climate Change, Uncertainty and Transformation in coastal areas around Mumbai often argues that livelihoods are central to making transformation benefit the economy, ecology, and cities.
Dr. Nasir Javed, shares what it takes to transform cities and their livability across Pakistan. Karachi is picking up heatwave planning from cities in India, but in the process Karachi is transforming both, the way city is planned and the way risk is perceived in such planning. Yolande Wright of DFID UK at a panel on Future of Urban Humanitarian Response at Royal Institute of British Architects said in June 2017.
Shri Kamal Kishore, Member, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), India, in his preface to South Asia Disaster Report 2016 of DuryogNivaran underlines Building Back Batter (BBB) as a transformative idea to be utilized for sustainable recovery and reconstruction. BhaveshSodagar from Mandvi shares with us the BBB in Kutch after 2001 earthquake in a candid manner: what changed, what did not, and what can still change to make Kutch resilient.
Shri Ramesh of Ministry of Earth Science has repeatedly indicated to look at transformative processes taking place in the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) in terms of it reaching out to its data users more directly, either during droughts or floods or heat waves. Dr. M. Mohapatra, IMD details some of these achievements, and also the efforts that went into them. Peter Walton of Oxford University warns us that institutions do not transform if there is no widespread awareness of risk among all stakeholders. The higher the degree of awareness and articulation of risk among the stakeholders, the more likely is the institutional transformation.
So how do we know if transformation is taking place? Or at least we are in the direction of moving towards transformation? One, when we listen to local and bottom up voices with care and respect; two, in cities, when we focus on livelihoods and jobs for the majority of its people; three, when established institutions reach out to its primary stakeholders; and four, when we do not look at the entire landscape of risk instead of lone parts.
Where will the sustained and effective push for such transformation come from? It will come from the thousands of innovations spawned by an empowered citizenry which has achieved access to basic services and from a symbiotic growth of the economy and ecology.

- Mihir R. Bhatt

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Floods Again: What Can Be Done Differently in South Asia?

Floods are age old but must South Asia's response to floods be age old as well? South Asia is now emerging to be a leader in reducing disaster risk. Such regional efforts were well received by Asian countries in the recent Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) held in Delhi in November 2016.
The ongoing floods in Assam in the North East of India and Gujarat in the West of India offer an opportunity to re-look the flood response in South Asia.
Therefore, this issue of enlists what can be done differently. Cyclones are one such area. Floods and cyclones go hand-in-hand and the recent cyclone Mora in Myanmar offered an opportunity to look at floods recovery in an urban setting. New ways must be found to deal with floods in cities and towns that propel South Asia's economic growth. What is needed is "new dimensions" that David Sanderson and others offer in the recent book titled, "Urban Disaster Resilience".
The second area is dams. A large number of dams are built in South Asia, and many more are being built to irrigate and mange floods. But are these dam safe from floods? Are they safe enough to protect the development and progress that they are supposed to spawn.
Third, obvious but not well recognized area is floods and forestry in South Asia. Forests slow down run-off and thus reduce floods. Floods wash away forests. Both impact each other and yet there is no clear direction on how to manage floods in forests and manage forests to reduce floods in South Asia. Women leaders in Nepal are thinking and reflecting on this overlap from a leadership point of view.
The Fourth area is ongoing activities around DRR road maps. DRR road maps do not adequately address issues of rampant and repeated floods and how to reduce flood impact as well as its causes. A road map for flood prone areas such as Assam or Gujarat in India is overdue. Hazard specific action plans are overdue at the sub-national level. The challenge of mainstreaming floods in South Asia's DRR road maps is widely shared in civil society members in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
Fifth, is it smart for a city to be flooded: have water logged roads and partially submerged housing colonies? Smart City infrastructure investments in India offer an opportunity to reduce risks, if not all, at least flood risks faced by its economic hubs and low income communities.
Sixth, relief offered after floods is not new to South Asia. What is new is possible and now pioneering use of cash transfer in such relief. ECHO South Asia has done effective work in cash transfer after floods with its partners in Odisha in India in 2014. And the direction is promising.
The above six are not the only ways to deal with floods differently in South Asia. But the above are some of the key ways that need urgent and additional attention while dealing with floods in South Asia.
– Mihir R. Bhatt
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Friday, 4 August 2017

Understanding Crowds

India is no stranger to large gatherings or crowds. Crowded railway stations, market squares and temple complexes are all commonplace. Given the ubiquity of crowded places, Indians tend to have a high tolerance for them. Thus, it is important to understand how crowds operate.
As soon as the word "crowd" is heard, the first instinct is to "manage" them, if not control them. Given the unusual number of stampedes taking place at religious congregations in the country it is important to manage these crowds both efficiently and creatively. Through the work of All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI) in India across nine states, sixty nine districts and over thirty five cities it has been found that all crowds do not need to be managed or controlled; that all crowds are not unruly or out of control; that in fact crowds offer energy and numbers to move towards something creative and constructive in society from time-to-time.
In AIDMI's resilience building work in four most important temples of Gujarat - Somnath, Dwarka, Pavagadh, and Dakor - it was clear that crowds that gather around and in the temples on daily as well as occasional basis do pose a risk and can cause a major disaster like a stampede. But it was also evident that crowds have their own ways of working out cautious movements, harmonising pace, re-orienting direction, and avoiding injuries. But this informal, self-organising, local ways of crowds are hardly studied, which is why they've never been used to enable crowds to self-manage. In fact there are hardly any crowd studies available in India though crowds are everywhere. What AIDMI has found in its work with these temples is that crowds can act and commit to be and remain safe, can re-organise and re-orient, can balance between internal and external processes that lend to risk, and evolve a coherence to its members for a given time and place. This is not on effort to romanticise crowds, but to leverage the inherent creativity and capability of a crowd for the common good.
Rahul Mehrotra, India's leading architect, has re-introduced Kumbh Mela, world's largest gathering to us. Kumbh Mela is self organising, seamless, cost effective, safe, and a bliss to all who attend this world's largest crowd. In fact he argues that such traditional gatherings offer us a new and more rooted way of planning cities and settlements in India.
At a presentation of his book on Kumbh Mela at L.D. Institute of Indology in Ahmedabad what became clear to me was the need to change the design and delivery of the environment within which crowds gather and operate. That is, changes in the ability of decision makers to understand crowds; changes in coordination and collaboration as well as the mobilisation of crowd management; and change in institutions and institutional capacities to respond to the needs and energies of crowds.
So if we were to launch crowd studies in India what will be its top four research priorities? First, start with the history of crowds that gather at say the Jagannath temple in Bhubaneswar or the Jama Masjid on Eid in Delhi. Second, find out where can crowd studies be placed among academic disciplines – in city planning, emergency management, security, and more. Third, look at crowds as people, individuals with will and concern both. Fourth, design and develop programmes and events that help us better understand the inherent good of crowds.
These first steps can go a long way in ensuring that our country does not have to suffer tragedies like stampedes in the future. Crowds do not remain a problem but become a solution.
– Mihir R. Bhatt

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Women's Leadership in Forest Recovery in Nepal

A Round Table discussion on "Agriculture, Environment and Forestry: Role of Women's Leadership" was held in Ahmedabad on July 10, 2017 with women leaders from Nepal who have been working on key issues of sustainability and conservation in Nepal ever since a devastating 2015 earthquake had hit their country.
The role of small business in forest produce trade; the scope for green bonds to invest in forestry; and linking forestry recovery with national development planning came up in the discussions.
The leaders discussed ways to feminize forestry activities in favour of work, income, and ecosystem away from profits, timber trading, and singular business interests.
The leaders agreed that there was a need to rethink the very foundations of modern forestry with historically grounded, highly current, and well argued lessons from ongoing recovery in Nepal. The earthquake recovery may deepen the inequality between those who benefit from forests and those who do not. For the people dependent on forests for their livelihood, the aftermath of the earthquake mattered more than the actual earthquake.
In addition needs capability building were discussed, which included ways of understanding multi-sectoral forestry needs of women; disaster vulnerability of forests; integrating women's livelihoods and protection programming for forestry recovery; and understanding new stakeholders in forestry recovery.

The participants pin pointed four areas for more work in building resilience of forests to disasters: formal and informal institutions; forest households; forest produce markets; and forest related policies such as water harvesting, and carbon sink.

It was concluded that more investment was needed in building capabilities of local leaders to find local ways to plan for DRR compliant forestry in the districts. A pedagogy of risk reduction is needed for the forests of the past, present, and the future.
– Mihir R. Bhatt

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Delivering Results and Working in Partnership: Two Key Concepts for South Asia to Accelerate Building Urban Resilience

South Asia has so much to offer to ARP in terms of reducing risks and building resilience. As we celebrate International Day for Disaster ...