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India Flood 2017 - Issue No. 161, August 2017

Originally published


Floods as an Opportunity

In 2017 South Asia was ravaged by unprecedented flooding that affected close to 41 million people across India, Bangladesh and Nepal. While the death and destruction unleashed by these floods is tragic, it also represents an opportunity to learn the necessary lessons to set South Asia firmly onto a safer and greener development trajectory.

By highlighting the existing gaps in the response, preparedness and relief activities undertaken by various state and non-state actors the key problems have been identified. This present issue of aims to just that.

Local flood studies that explore and account for local action, results, and opportunities are needed to build up bottom up knowledge resources for South Asia wide actions on floods.
River basin or national flood plans are a first step but not enough any more.

AIDMI's recent work in Nepal and Bangladesh finds that two items in flood management can be made more effective. One, delivering flood management results and two, working in partnership with government and non-government actors in flood management. There two need more attention.

It is time to move ahead from project and programme approach to systemic approach to flood management and mitigation. In recent years, the political leadership has greatly influenced national and sub-national priorities and processes of development. How can these influences be directed to unfinished development agendas such as decentralised and ecosystem-based flood mitigation in a time bound manner?

Floods simply do not result in the inundation of an area alone; they also result in the displacement of people, halting of economic activity and largescale livelihood disruption. These are just a few of the detrimental impacts of floods which pose a challenge to the local and national institutions. It is time to look ahead to even greater systemic challenges — poor connectivity, limited role of private sector, and knowledge management — and start evolving suitable solutions for them till 2030.

Floods do not spare the hotspots of terrorism or conflict and as a result pose a threat to people and prosperity in recovery. Estimates suggest over 100 districts in India alone suffer from such a double threat. Almost each country in South Asia has similar conflict affected areas. Thus, floods impact local security, governance, and human rights protection.

Local faith based organisation can be brought in more directly to think find a way out. In India Shri Sadguru has taken on initiative titled "Save our rivers" that can be one such example.
In Colombo, Partnership for Faith and Development is organising largest ever event titled “Localizing Response to Humanitarian Need: The Role of Religious and Faith-based Organisations”, October 16 to 18, 2017, for local faith organisations.

For years Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) in Bangkok has run regional training courses on disaster management providing necessary and fundamental knowledge and skills in flood risk management. Inputs for first sources came from Duryog Nivaran.

Perhaps it is time to take such capacity building initiatives to empower local communities with the adequate response and preparedness capacities to respond to the challenges of flooding.

Traditional knowledge systems for flood management have existed for centuries in South Asia. It is vital that we leverage this traditional wisdom and use it in conjunction with modern DRR techniques. One of the most eminent scenographers of our times, Rajeev Sethi, calls South Asia's legacy of traditional knowledge systems, including of local flood management, has awed the world but will wither away if not conserved