Monday 21 August 2017

Transformation: Initiatives Towards Resilience

Transformation is by nature multidisciplinary; by definition it combines past with future in the present by operating simultaneously on different systems and concepts. Insurance, markets, and private sector are some of the ingredients that can be leveraged by the humanitarian system to transform cities. We have more data than we have ever had, which gives us an opportunity to compare cities, communities, periods and stages of recovery to make transformation a reality.
Can cutting edge innovations that integrate disaster risk reduction with climate change adaptation transform our views on risk from the standpoint of individuals, institutions and investments that shape resilience?
AIDMI's two decades of work in South Asia has shown that "Uncertainty" is an opportunity for transformation. Dr. Lyla Mehta of IDS, drawing from her ongoing field work on Climate Change, Uncertainty and Transformation in the desert of Kutch and delta areas of Sunderbans, has often mentioned that transformation is a bottom up process where marginal voices, more specifically poor women's voices, are central. This issue also highlights an institutional effort in the desert of Kutch to transform the lives of the locals by the Gujarat Institute of Desert Ecology (GUIDE), reported by Dr. V. Vijay Kumar and Dr. Anjan Kumar Prusty.
Risk is never insular, it is always compounded by underlying vulnerabilities, which if not addressed in time can precipitate into disasters. AIDMI has found this reality in over 23 evaluations and reviews of risk and resilience projects in South Asia. Dr. Lars Otto of IDS, who is also working on the Climate Change, Uncertainty and Transformation project, opines that a way to approach transformation is through landscape analysis which is a first step towards transformation.
Dr. Aliza Pradhan and Dr. R.V. Bhavani from Chennai share M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation's (MSSRF) work that shows that the risks faced in agriculture are linked with the risks faced in coastal areas. Agriculture and farmers are a key to any coastal transformation towards resilience. Dr. Rajib Prakash Baruah from Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), Guwahati, shares a way to approach the landscape of risk: mock drills. Such drills address a wide range of risks and measure the capacity of a system to respond to their impact.
Through AIDMI's work in over 56 cities it has been found that any transformation of a city is multidisciplinary by its very nature. Cities are many Things, many places, spread across different times. All versions of the city co-exist in collaboration as well as in conflict. Dr. Parthasarthy of IIT, in his work on Climate Change, Uncertainty and Transformation in coastal areas around Mumbai often argues that livelihoods are central to making transformation benefit the economy, ecology, and cities.
Dr. Nasir Javed, shares what it takes to transform cities and their livability across Pakistan. Karachi is picking up heatwave planning from cities in India, but in the process Karachi is transforming both, the way city is planned and the way risk is perceived in such planning. Yolande Wright of DFID UK at a panel on Future of Urban Humanitarian Response at Royal Institute of British Architects said in June 2017.
Shri Kamal Kishore, Member, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), India, in his preface to South Asia Disaster Report 2016 of DuryogNivaran underlines Building Back Batter (BBB) as a transformative idea to be utilized for sustainable recovery and reconstruction. BhaveshSodagar from Mandvi shares with us the BBB in Kutch after 2001 earthquake in a candid manner: what changed, what did not, and what can still change to make Kutch resilient.
Shri Ramesh of Ministry of Earth Science has repeatedly indicated to look at transformative processes taking place in the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) in terms of it reaching out to its data users more directly, either during droughts or floods or heat waves. Dr. M. Mohapatra, IMD details some of these achievements, and also the efforts that went into them. Peter Walton of Oxford University warns us that institutions do not transform if there is no widespread awareness of risk among all stakeholders. The higher the degree of awareness and articulation of risk among the stakeholders, the more likely is the institutional transformation.
So how do we know if transformation is taking place? Or at least we are in the direction of moving towards transformation? One, when we listen to local and bottom up voices with care and respect; two, in cities, when we focus on livelihoods and jobs for the majority of its people; three, when established institutions reach out to its primary stakeholders; and four, when we do not look at the entire landscape of risk instead of lone parts.
Where will the sustained and effective push for such transformation come from? It will come from the thousands of innovations spawned by an empowered citizenry which has achieved access to basic services and from a symbiotic growth of the economy and ecology.

- Mihir R. Bhatt

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