District Disaster Management Plan (DDMP) is the key document at district level that guides the administrative authorities to respond to a disaster in a planned manner. It often indicates towards the roles and responsibility of the important line departments for any given disaster situation. Traditionally, this has been mostly a response centric practice. A district plan exists, the response to it is noted down, additional information added and the plan transforms into a new avatar. Unfortunately, this backward looking approach is effective only in response situations, but incompetent in mainstreaming disaster management in the development, planning, execution and post disaster reconstruction phases.
Experience reveals that stakeholder’s involvement are not given due space in DDMP preparation. Government departments, civil society, private players and community have their own individual perspective to look into the disasters and respond to a situation with present available resources. An effective strategy to overcome this gap is Shared Learning Dialogue (SLDs) with the stakeholders. SLDs can be referred as a reiterative, cross-sectoral learning process of bringing technical and local knowledge together.
Populating DDMP with these inside perspective and experiences can lead to a comprehensive climate smart disaster management plan at sub-national level. This can be covered in two phases-Phase I: Vulnerability & Risk Analysis , Phase II: Resilient strategies identification. These SLDs can be triggered further for getting useful information and eventually translated into planning and action.
For instance, consultation with government departments individually or jointly, may help understanding departmental level operational issues, as well as the gaps in coordination mechanism and the future scope of convergence. This also fosters better understanding of vulnerabilities (and reasons thereof) of key infrastructure, assets and services, that each department manages. On the other hand, consultation with community gives an understanding of micro level vulnerability and the key priority areas of intervention. It also helps us collate information on the existing vulnerability and available capacity at local levels, in relation to various hazards.
SLDs can be useful in understanding the impact of climate change on departmental infrastructures, the existing schemes and the extent of use of climate data at departmental level. An example is our project titled” Scaling up sub-national climate and disaster smart development in India”, supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). Here SLDs with the department helped understand departmental vulnerability, existing roles in disaster management, capacity gaps, availability of climate information and its usage in planning. The water ways department identified its threshold as high localized precipitation in coastal areas especially during full/ no moon days; and, high concentrated precipitation due to cyclonic storms in lower reaches of Mahanadi (upstream of Hirakud dam) especially during mid-September to mid-October.
Similarly, the Health department shared that if the temperature rise occurs along with more than 80% humidity, it causes deaths and other health issues due to heat stroke. Such an essential piece of information is useful for future assessment in the possibility of such events occurrence, which in turn helps the department prepare and respond better to extreme events.
During discussion with the departments in Puri and Almora (districts under the project), it came to light that except the Agriculture department in Puri, none of the department had any contingency/emergency plan in place. Such information gives an idea about the extent of preparedness level of our departments and also pinpoints the key areas where the district authorities can improve their planning.
SLDs also gives us the analytical information on the inter departmental coordination issues, mechanism and gaps. All this can thus be translated into the possible ways for establishing cross-departmental mechanism of information sharing, joint planning and resource pooling.
The author of the article is Amit Kumar, team member, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG).