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Disaster preparedness in India pays off


India's disaster preparedness has succeeded in dramatically reducing the loss of lives of cyclone Phailin last weekend. While the power of Phailin was a category stronger than the 1999 Odisha cyclone, India timely evacuated nearly a million people from the coastline.

While the 1999 cyclone caused the deaths of about 10,000 people, with cyclone Phailin so far 6 deaths have been reported and around 18 are missing.

The massive evacuation of almost 1 million people in India is an important achievement of cooperation between disaster managers and response agencies in India, concludes Wetlands International. While the damage to housing and infrastructure is massive and fuller information on the actual loss of assets will be available later, this is an important successful case for everyone working on disaster risk reduction.

River Restoration in India. Photo by Wetlands International India 

Wetlands International works together with humanitarian, development and environment organisations (CARE Nederland, Cordaid, the Red Cross, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre) to improve the disaster resilience of 212 villages in the northeastern States of Orissa and Bihar. 50 of these villages were hit by last Saturday’s cyclone and thanks to the involvement of Wetlands International and Cordaid in this area communities were able to take preparedness measures, implement their contingency plans and took early action.

Under a global, large scale program (titled Partners for Resilience), Wetlands International and Cordaid together with local partners have conducted risk assessments in each of the villages and connect risk reduction plans of those villages that have similar risk contexts. There are for instance coastal regions that face hazards like coastal storms, coastal erosion and intrusion of salt water, while more inland delta regions bear commonalities such as floods from rivers.

In this way risk reduction measures can be planned at a larger and more efficient and long-lasting scale. This approach enhances regional resilience and allows to build in ecosystem management and climate change adaptation approaches. Measures to reduce risk include greening the coastline to restore degraded ecosystems into more disaster resilient systems, maintaining a free flow of water to reduce water logging and better management of upstream hydraulic structures. 

Read more on reducing disaster risk or contact Marie-Jose Vervest, projectmanager Disaster Risk Reduction

Watch two videos on floodplains for livelihoods and biodiversity in North Bihar
This video tells the story how biodiversity, livelihoods and wetland management are interlinked in the North Bihar, India. Endikements, roads and other development do not take water management into account and damage this fragile balance. Wetlands International and Cordaid call for integrated management of water, wetlands to sustain and restore the ecological balance, benefitting people's livelihoods and protect them from floods.

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