“The earth is warming, it’s just the beginning,” goes a new farming song in Uttar Pradesh, India as rainstorms and flooding become more frequent, and property and crops across the state are ruined. The increasing number of weather disasters, as a result of climate change, is making it harder for people to get back on their feet after each one.
A film released by the Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) and TERI India, in association with CDKN and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, For a safer future – Insights on climate resilience from India, tells the story of “chronically flood prone” Gorakhpur district in Eastern Uttar Pradesh state. Here, nearly 70% of the population of the area is rural and sustained by agriculture. Local people have traditionally been attuned to the ebb and flow of seasonal floods – until global warming changed everything.
“We call it ‘live with the flood, our lives were in tune with the floods,” says Shiraz Wajih, Director of GEAG. “But now the floods come very fast. There are flash floods, landslides and more water logging. So in spite of best preparedness, no one is ready for such uncertainties.” It has come to the point, he says, where pre-disaster, disaster and post-disaster periods are all merging together, as Gorakhpur lurches from one calamity to another. This has brought the need to prepare for and cope with disasters entirely differently than in the past.
The film charts how, in the past two years, Gorakhpur authorities, civil society experts and farming communities have worked to put climate change issues at the heart of disaster preparation plans. At farm level, spreading simple techniques to protect lives and property is making all the difference when intense floods and storms arrive. Actions include everything from to running community seed banks with climate-resilient seeds and sharing knowledge about diverse, traditional crop varieties, to covering crop stores when rain is on the way and making simple flotation devices to protect non-swimmers.
The government and communities have moved on from a ‘response-centric’ way of doing things; now they are putting better systems in place to anticipate and brace against weather and climate-related disasters. Front-line community organisers explain how “four mounds of mud” placed strategically along the river can avert a disaster if placed in time, whereas investment after the disaster cannot reverse the damage.
“We should not wait for disaster to take action,” says Professor Anil Gupta of India’s National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM). Now the NIDM’s training course has shared the Gorakhpur model of disaster risk management with 600 district governments throughout India as an inspiration for others.
Watch the film about the Gorakhpur experience here:
For a safer future – Insights on climate resilience from India
Read the associated papers by GEAG:
INSIDE STORY: Integrating climate change concerns into disaster management planning: The case of Gorakhpur, India
*The film For a safer future – Insights on climate resilience from India and ‘Inside Story’ and Background Paper on ‘Integrating climate change concerns in disaster management planning: The case of Gorakhpur’ are all outputs of the learning programme on local and subnational climate compatible development run by CDKN with ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability.