Preparation is the answer to India's monsoon devastation
Disaster preparedness course in Bangladesh
Bihar, India’s poorest state, has seven major rivers and is home to 82 million people, a third of them living below the poverty line. Every year rain water from the neighbouring mountains of Nepal flood poor communities in Bihar, causing high levels of damage.
Poor people cannot afford the investment required to defend themselves against the flooding. People cope by rebuilding their homes in the same place, only to face the same problem 12 months later. Steps are being taken to make homes more flood-proof and to strengthen embankments to reduce flooding.
Eleven million people lost their homes in floods in 2007. Fr Prakash Louis of Bihar Social Institute, a Caritas India partner spoke to Caritas Germany’s Christina Grawe last August.
Fr Prakash Louis: Normally, the water from Nepal is regulated by embankments. There is a big one near the Nepal-India border. Usually it rains a few hours every second day, and these embankments are able to control the water. But this time, it rained for 15 days non-stop. No break, no sun to dry, no draining off. The embankments were already old and weak, so they simply broke and the water flooded all the lower areas.
P: I am angry because of the complete lack of preparedness. Sometimes I am so tired. Not physically, but tired of facing a similar situation year after year. It’s been like this for 50 years. I remember the big flood of 1987. Even then, we talked about disaster preparedness.
P: Not prevented, but reduced in its effects. I think the most important thing is to teach the people continuously, explaining the importance of preparedness and repeating it month after month. Bihar Social Institute does this with Caritas United States of America (Catholic Relief Service) and Caritas India.
Communities need to stock medicines to treat water-related illnesses, and educate people about those sicknesses. And lastly, we need to train the community in first aid.
P: The Government should strengthen the embankments and there should be a pre-warning system. Most poor people don’t have television. They don’t know that rain has been falling for 10 days in the mountains of Nepal. They don’t know when they are in danger, but if somehow someone tells them that the embankment is going to burst in 20 minutes, it can save their lives.
P: Money. When the people in the world see destruction and suffering, they are willing to give. But the rest of the year it is difficult to find money. When the sun is shining, no one in the world sees the need to give money for flood prevention.
RESOURCESAnnual Report 2011Emergency GuidelinesEmergency Response Tool KitEmergency Appeals 2012Emergency Appeals 2011Emergency Appeals 2010Emergencies on Caritas BlogBridging the Gap between Policy and Practice