The eastern part of the Brahmaputra basin represents a severe floodplain area in the state of Assam. The southern valley is highly prone to water-induced hazards such as floods, flash floods, river bank erosion and land degradation. The districts of Jorhat, Golaghat and Majuli island of Upper Assam represents many severe flood-prone areas where the Brahmaputra river and its tributary rivers are comparatively high and have deep channels right from the upper hills of Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. Due to cloudburst and dynamic rainfall in the catchment area, the river gets charged with enormous amounts of silt which alters the flow and sometime changes the river courses causing untold miseries to the people living in the downstream riverine areas. Flooding and river bank erosion affect all aspects of the land, lives, and livelihoods of the communities living in the region to a significant degree, rendering them homeless and displaced, destroying crops, damaging public property, and worsening development infrastructure. Moreover, annual cycles of flooding cripple people’s resilience and intensify the poverty spiral. The floodplain pockets are the most backward, poorest and almost entirely isolated and inhabited by different people groups including the Assamese, Mising, Fisherman community etc.
The CBDRM Intervention
The Brahmaputra River Basin Resilience Building Programme is a community-based preparedness approach to disaster risk reduction in the floodplain of Jorhat, Golaghat and Majuli districts of Assam. This grassroots development initiative was started by NEADS with support from Oxfam India in 2011 with the aim of preparing communities to meet flood emergencies and mobilising village community institutions at the micro level for long term disaster mitigation. At present 30 villages are being covered under the programme under three development blocks.
The Core Areas of Intervention
- Institution Building & Disaster Preparedness: The selected communities live in remote disaster prone areas. They are deprived of adequate awareness, skills and various basic facilities, which make them more vulnerable to disasters. Therefore, a collective movement at the community level needs to be started to reduce their vulnerabilities through enhancing their joint participation and capacity. The Duryug Bebosthapana Samiti (Village Disaster Management Committee) could take this role. VDMCs, with support of other sub committees and task forces, is considered as a leading community-based institution that will provide leadership and is primarily responsible for disaster management in their respective villages through community participation, village level funds/other resources as well as leveraging funds from ongoing government schemes/programmes related to development. VDMCs are the driving force of the community, trying to mobilize the community, enhance capacity and knowledge of people, collect and disseminate up to date information and correctly point out the risks/problems, and finding out the possible mitigation measures of the community and initiating action.
- Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): The main objective of WASH programmes is to reduce the transmission of water-borne diseases and exposure to disease-bearing vectors through the promotion of good hygiene practices, the provision of safe drinking water, the reduction of environmental health risks, the conditions that allow people to live with good health, dignity, comfort and security. Simply providing sufficient water and sanitation facilities will not, on its own, ensure their optimal use or impact on public health. In order to achieve the maximum benefit from a response, it is imperative that disaster-affected people have the necessary information, knowledge and understanding to prevent water- and sanitation-related diseases and to mobilise their involvement in the design and maintenance of those facilities.
- Vulnerable & Resilient Livelihood: Disasters and food insecurity are directly interconnected. Floods destroy agricultural and livestock assets, inputs and production capacity. They interrupt market access, trade and food supply, reduce income, deplete savings and erode livelihoods. Disasters create poverty traps that increase the prevalence of food insecurity and malnutrition. The programme seeks to improve food security and support livelihoods of target communities by providing productive assets for livelihoods and building resilience even when they are disrupted by disasters.
- Advocacy, Mainstreaming & Convergence with Government: To create a scope and opportunity for responsive line departments in the Gaon Panchayat, Block & District level to mainstream disaster risk reduction in governance processes that enable the systematic integration of DRR concerns into all relevant development schemes.
The key activities undertaken include:
- Community Based Disaster Preparedness
- Promoting village-wide ‘Duryug Bebosthapana Samiti’ – (A grassroot institutional mechanism for preparing community to meet emergencies and mobilizing them for risk reduction).
- Participatory, Vulnerability, Capacity, Assessment (PVCA) and Development planning at micro level (Emphasis is to mainstream disaster risk reduction into development planning).
- Risk mapping and safety planning in the village.
- Established Community Resource Centre for education, information and awareness on DRR.
- Organized emergency mock drill trainings and exercises for risk reduction.
- Establish Raised Granary for safe storage of food grain in the community.
- Emergency country boat & emergency equipments support.
- Risk Management by Accessing Safe Water, Sanitation and Proper Hygiene Education
- Installation of flood – resistant hand pumps and sanitation structures.
- Hand pump toolkit and training support for village level mechanics including WASH Committees.
- Imparting training on water chlorination. Facilitation support of hand pump chlorination drive after flood.
- Support of small water treatment units in the riverine community for accessibility of clean water.
- Community awareness raising events on WASH & Public Health Promotion.
- Children centered Public Health Promotion (PHP).
- Sensitisation programme on children risks and safety in school.
- Disaster Risk Reduction through Livelihood Concerns
- Support to farmers including women for restoration of livelihoods through promotion of Early Harvesting Crop (stress tolerant), System of Rice Intensification (SRI), Kitchen Garden and Livestock.
- Post flood agricultural support to young farmers club.
- Promoting weaving as a rural initiative for economy generation by the women collective.
- Farmers’ capacity building on sustainable agriculture, organic farming, System of Rice Intensification (SRI), livestock management, integrated farming practices and livelihood improvement.
- Mainstreaming, Convergence & Advocacy
- Building linkages to government line departments for tapping resources under the development schemes.
- Submission of village-wide comprehensive DRR plans to Panchayati Raj Institution through special Gramsabha. Emphasis has been given to disaster perspective development plans at PRI level policy.
- Block level and district level advocacy through ‘Village Disaster Management Committees’ with Line Departments to access services and to mainstream DRR.
- DRR capacity-building events for PRI, Block & Departmental functionaries, and frontline workers including ASHA, AWW, VLEW, PARA-VET etc.
- Effort was on convergence of programmes to build capacities of affected people.
The Key Stakeholder Involved
- Village level: Women, children, adolescent girls, elderly, youth, farmers, community.
- Block level: Aanganwadi Workers, ANM, ASHA, health professionals, school teachers, parents from School Management Committees, community-based organisations, representatives from the community.
- District level: District Disaster Management Authority, Deputy Commissioner, Agriculture Department, Public Health Engineering Department, Veterinary Department, Water Resource Department, NGOs/CSOs, Block Development Office.
Project Duration – 2011-2017