Sustainable Energy for Disaster Resilience, Cyclone Fani Response 2019

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Energy plays a vital role in disaster context. It is a rare commodity in disaster struck areas along with other essentials such as food, water, and shelter. Often, the value of energy in humanitarian action is overlooked. Access to decentralised and sustainable energy systems can greatly enhance a community’s capacity to rebuild after a disaster and ensure continuity of essential services while also providing psychological comfort to them, by keeping communication channels active. Moreover, in a situation where disasters are increasingly frequent due to the climate emergency, resilience and rebuilding efforts should seek to minimise stress on the environment by being more sustainable.

Today, India loses over 5000 lives to disasters each year, with additional losses in the form of infrastructure, assets, and livelihoods.¹ Odisha has had a particularly troubled history when it comes to disasters. The state’s geographical vulnerabilities coupled with acute poverty and inequity, exacerbates the problem. Last year, coastal Odisha was hit by one of the most severe cyclones the country has seen – Cyclone Fani. In the last century alone, the state has experienced 263 cyclonic disturbances out of a total of 1035 that have occurred in India.

SEEDS and SELCO Foundation came together to work with the local communities in Puri district of Odisha to strengthen their rebuilding efforts after Cyclone Fani. This report discusses their joint work on the ground in using sustainable energy as a tool for disaster resilience. The interventions concentrate on strategic infusion of energy and sustainability-based features for faster recovery and longterm resilience. What emerges is a replicable and scalable model for community resilience.