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Resilience | Quarterly Newsletter Volume 3

SEEDS recognised with Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar 2021

Government of India has awarded SEEDS with the prestigious Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabhandhan Puraskar 2021 under the ‘Institution category’ for our work towards disaster management. The award, a recognition SEEDS’ work in building community resilience received on the eve of the organisation’s 27th anniversary strengthened our resolve to work harder and with courage and compassion. This acknowledgement of SEEDS efforts has underscored the importance of bottom-up approaches ensuring agency of affected communities and ensuring no one gets left behind. Our sincere gratitude goes to all the members of the SEEDS family, our co-workers, donors, and friends with whom we share this honour.

The award was instituted by Government of India to recognise and honour the invaluable contribution and selfless service rendered by individuals and organisations in India in the field of Disaster Management. It is announced every year on 23rd January celebrating the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. The award carries a cash prize of Rs. 51 lakh and a certificate in case of an institution category. This year the Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar’ received 371 valid nominations from institutions and individuals.

SEEDS has worked on the frontlines towards making vulnerable communities disaster ready and has pioneered approaches to effective response, and rehabilitation after disasters, strengthening local capacities and agency of affected communities across different States of India. Recognising the importance of local leaders in building resilience to disasters, the organisation has actively engaged with local leaders in ensuring lasting change towards reducing vulnerabilities on communities. In improving disaster readiness, SEEDS has worked on safety and security of children helping teachers and students in identifying, assessing and managing risks in their own local environments.

Conversations on ‘Navigating the Sustainable Energy-Disaster Resilience Nexus’ with Resilience Café

A few months back, SEEDS introduced its latest initiative, ‘Resilience Café – Conversations with SEEDS’. We aim to shape our worldview and that of others to arrive at actionable humanitarian interventions to save lives and prevent losses from disasters, now and in the future. With this platform, we hope to engage in conversation on, but not limited to marginalised communities, micro and small business enterprises, and migrants. We shall engage with affected and at-risk communities, civil society partners, donors, children, and government officials. In January 2021, we conducted the third edition under this series of conversations on ‘Navigating the Sustainable Energy-Disaster Resilience Nexus’.

The level of loss during a disaster depends upon the coping capacity of the affected community. Ones with low capacities are often affected by disasters in cycles, getting hit by the next one before they have recovered from one. India loses over one million houses to disasters each year, along with other public infrastructure, assets, and livelihoods that form part of the ecosystem. While the inter-linkages between sustainable energy and disaster resilience cannot be overstated, it is often lacking in practice. SEEDS and SELCO Foundation came together to demonstrate the use of sustainable energy as an enabler for faster recovery and building resilience, among affected communities in Puri district of Odisha post-Cyclone Fani.

An hour long insightful discussion concluded with an understanding that the systems haven’t explored the three Rs .i.e. Resources, Rules and Results yet and its thinking hasn’t really explored this nexus. We try to think in isolation therefore the systems require reboot in many ways especially during the current context where we have seen a pandemic, occurrence of climate-induced disasters during the pandemic and the complications it led to. All of this, has forced us to look at the system’s approach from a different lens. Learning from the current thinking of finding solutions in the emergency phase, we should shift the dominant narrative to informing the community about the value of investing in resilience building will lead to better results.

To listen to all the sessions, visit https://www.seedsindia.org/resilience-cafe/

Celebrated resilience on 20 years of Gujarat earthquake of 2001

On January 26th, 2001, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake devastated the state of Gujarat causing extensive damage to life and property. Over 13,881 lives were lost, 300,000 buildings collapsed and twice that number were damaged. As we look back at the disaster since its occurrence, flashback of different experiences twirl over us and those who were a prima facie of the Great Gujarat Earthquake in Bhuj.

At the time the region was already suffering from drought conditions and the result of 2 cyclones in 3 years. 220 out of 276 houses in the village of Patanka were completely destroyed by the earthquake and the rest were severely damaged. The damage to building stock in the region revealed the lack of adequately trained masons in the traditional technology. Irrevocable scars of loss are still etched in our hearts as we mark the 20th anniversary of the devastating Gujarat earthquake. On this day, we remember one of India’s most disastrous event that changed our lives forever.

It resulted in a paradigm shift in the policy of the Government from relief and humanitarian assistance oriented post-disaster intervention to a pro-active prevention, mitigation and pre-disaster preparedness. Comprehensive Gujarat State Disaster Management Policy was declared in November 2002. Legal and Regulatory requirement for effective disaster management resulted in enactment of the Gujarat State Disaster Management Act in March 2003. Gujarat is the first State in India to enact an act for disaster management.

Remembering the day, we recalled the tragedy that will always be in our memories that taught not just one but many lessons. We also took this opportunity to hear from those who have been directly impacted by the earthquake. Listen to all of them here, https://www.seedsindia.org/20years-gujarat-earthquake/

Micro enterprises livelihood recovery programme

Through this programme we aim to provide safety-nets and livelihood recovery for migrant workers in micro-enterprises hit by Covid-19 lockdowns. Longer-term sustainability and resilience built into the Covid-19 affected informal sector economy by supporting vulnerable micro-enterprises with services including credit linkage, up-skilling and re-skilling, market linkage and local aggregation to offer value added services.

The Covid-19 induced lockdown, leading to collapse of the informal sector markets, is impacting a large number of low income and migrant workers and their families. Many micro-enterprises in the urban and peri-urban areas are buckling under liabilities accrued during the lockdown, while the traditional ones in the rural hinterland are unable to expand and absorb the medium-term influx of returning workers. A large number of such enterprises, may not be able to survive, leaving a very large number of migrant workers with a sudden loss of basic income.

Currently, one of our projects called, Tribal Entrepreneurship Project is being implemented with the aim to help tribal artisans in various states of India to upgrade their skills and help then become self-dependent. Trainers are being identified from different parts of the country to conduct training of 350 tribal artisans. The skills developed through these trainings will be showcased in exhibitions organised by Ministry of Tribal Affairs. The first of these exhibitions is proposed in April 2021. The entire exercise would aim to develop master artisans who would further become the entrepreneurs/mentor and give back to their own community

Build Back Better with West Bengal post Cyclone Amphan

SEEDS with support from IBM built 40 homes and ensured repair and restoration of 133 damaged houses for the Cyclone Amphan affected families in West Bengal. The specially designed intervention program is based on SEEDS’ Build Back Better approach. Ensuring owner-driven approach, our practices include modern techniques coupled with local materials, especially bamboo for the repair and construction process. The patterns made are not only strong but also appealing and beautiful. The programme also ensured installation of 50 community water filters and distributing 600 kits of dry ration and hygiene kits supporting 5,000 people collectively.

Overcoming the on-ground challenges, the initial relief response addressed the immediate needs of dry ration, hygiene items and safe drinking water supply to the affected families. A week-long mobile health care camp was also organised with a dedicated team of doctors and health care volunteers travelling along with the bus in the remotest locations of the district and treated over 1,000 people who were in critical need.

The efforts were undertaken to support the most marginalised communities of 24 South Parganas districts, 24 North Parganas districts and East Midnapore in West Bengal.

SEEDS’ Tech4Good: Sunny Lives, AI for Humanitarian Action

Drawing on the concept of tech for good, artificial intelligence for humanitarian action involves a set of initiatives for hyper local disaster warnings and advisories as a significant step for building a just and safe world. Publicly available high-resolution maps and images are a resource based on which families in low lying areas can get to know of an impending flood or storm, and with precision and speed like never before. Such a system is powerful enough to convert the speed of an incoming cyclone, or the cusecs (cubic feet per second) of incoming water flow in a river, into precise information on when and how much a particular house will be impacted.

Given the construction material and technology of the building, it can be estimated what kind of damage will be caused, and accordingly the system will give advice on when to evacuate, where to head, what to carry, and whom to contact for support. For the long run, it will also advise on how to prepare for such an eventuality, and how to strengthen buildings and infrastructure to avoid future losses. Such models are already being tested for floods and cyclones, and will soon be covering other hazards including heat waves, earthquakes, epidemics and fires. Needless to say, the success of artificial intelligence for such applications rides on human ingenuity that designs, informs and operates them.

Currently, a model for hyper local warnings for floods is being tested in the coastal areas of Mumbai and Puri in states of Maharashta and Odisha respectively.

Long-term adaptation for flood affected families of Karnataka

To support the flood affected people in Karnataka with livelihood rebuilding opportunities and to ensure a long-term adaptation, SEEDS working towards enabling livelihood based interventions with the affected villages. The communities are being engaged in several villages of Chikodi Taluk in Belgaum district of Karnataka. Based on the data received from the ground and several field visits SEEDS team members, it was found that Ingali, Yadur, Manjari and Ankali villages were worse affected by the floods and therefore chosen for our interventions.

We supported the communities with facilitation of backyard farming to ensure organic farming in the backyards of the households for them to meet the family’s nutritional needs; mason training to improve the skills of the people so that they can meet their livelihood needs and generate public health awareness towards importance of maintaining hygiene and the need to take necessary precautions against Covid-19 pandemic.

Up-scaling community resilience through ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction

SEEDS together with Wetlands International South Asia aims to upscale and mainstream Eco-DRR approaches into practice and policy-making for building community resilience to water-induced disaster risk. The project will design and implement measures for building community resilience in the Basin of Kanwar wetland, Gandak- Kosi river floodplains in the state of Bihar. Besides Kanwar wetland, the project will be implemented at Tampara basin in Odisha and Suigam Taluka in Gujarat. Currently, we along with our partners are working towards restoring the Kawal lake that acts as a buffer adjoining settlements from flood risk by accommodating significant proportion of runoff and bank flows of the river. Nearly 15,000 households living around the wetland harvest fish and aquatic plants for use as food, fodder and thatch.

The degradation of ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, coastal systems, and dry lands – is a major driver of risk and a key component of disaster vulnerability. There is an increasing awareness about the role that ecosystems play in reducing the impacts of hazards and climate change. This includes restoring and protecting wetlands for absorbing flood waters; coastal ecosystems such as sand dunes, coral reefs, sea grasses and mangroves to reduce coastal hazards and erosion, and forest to reduce mountain hazards. Sustainable management, conservation and restoration of ecosystems to provide services that reduce disaster risk by mitigating hazards and by increasing livelihood resilience is termed as Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR). These approaches are more inclusive and recognize the connection between human wellbeing, ecosystems health and role of ecosystems in reducing disaster risks.

Kanwar Jheel is part of an extensive floodplain (floodplains are types of wetlands) complex formed in the lower reaches of Gandak – Kosi inter fan in North Bihar. The Burhi-Gandak is a ‘plains-fed’ river, implying the catchment area is constituted of only plains having little elevational gradient. The river behaviour and morphology are central to the landscape hydrological regime. However, hydrological factors such as meandering nature of the river, extreme influx of sediments, physical alterations in the flow regime, and breach of embankments cause spilling and lateral overflows in peak season. Further, erratic yet high precipitation and loss of wetlands to permanent agricultural systems make plains along the river Burhi Gandak prone to floods.