Lessons from Kerala Floods shared at BSDMA Workshop

While the rebuilding measures are still going on to support people, Kerala Floods offers some crucial lessons for the future.

Bihar State Disaster Management Authority (BSDMA) invited representatives of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Caritas India, UNICEF, and Sphere India working in Bihar and Kerala to share their knowledge, experience, success, failure and technicalities of flood response at Patna, Bihar on February 5, 2019. The agencies present during the workshop shared their approaches, methodologies and operating systems during pre and post-flood response.

Shri P.N. Rai (IPS), Member of BSDMA in his special address expressed the concurrent need of this workshop for exchanging knowledge, information’s for institutional preparedness and to establish coordination with Bihar-Kerala authorities.

Another BSDMA member Shri. U.K. Mishra shared about the role of Government agencies, disaster management departments, CSOs effort, role and liabilities of local self-governance in mitigating flood situation and response. He also suggested that agencies from Bihar must incorporate good learnings and failures from Kerala flood 2018 for their strategies and preparations for an effective response in future disasters to minimize the massive destructions and casualties.

“Though Bihar Disaster Authorities (BSDMA, Department, and CSOs) are working as per their SoP yet there is a constant need to exchange good practices, operating methods with both states,” said Shri. Vyas Ji, IAS, Vice Chairman, BSDMA, GoB. He also said that SoP can be revised based on past learning, therefore Kerala and Bihar mutually and work on the planning and implementation part of the flood or any disaster responses and preparedness with resilience approaches.

Founder member of NDMA, Shri Vinod Menon gave the overviews of Kerala flood as well as efforts of agencies in rebuilding Kerala initiatives. Sharing about his learning from Kerala Floods, he highlighted the role and responsibilities of district and block administration in the flood responses.

Mr. Sarbjit Singh Sahota from UNICEF shared the survey on the adverse effects of Kerala flood on climate, geographical catchment of the flood, agriculture, Livelihood, forestry, groundwater, people, health and education system as well urban/semi-urban living conditions. He mentioned that Bihar UNICEF is also looking for a similar survey in Bihar and suggested BSDMA to move ahead and execute the survey in disaster situation further.

“Affected community has the first right on State treasury”, remarked Fr. Paul Moonjely, Executive Director of Caritas India. He recognized Bihar as the first state to call out the lesson learned workshop on Kerala floods. He appreciated the works of Govt. and Non. Govt. agencies and role of CSOs in past flood responses in Koshi Flood in Bihar in 2008 as well in Splash flood in 2017. Before enlightening the experiences gained during Kerala response 2018, he acknowledges the Bihar State Disaster Management Authority and Bihar Government for remarkable work in disaster response. Fr. Paul again said that Kerala authorities have to learn also from Bihar in the sectors of response mechanism, Integrated and work allocation by administration and Government, use of FMIS, effective use and adoption of NDRF, SDRF as well resource mobilization and distribution.

Sharing about the Kerala flood experience, Fr. Paul explained that Kerala don’t have villages, villages are developed in semi-urban areas and with parallel infrastructures like roads, RoBs, Bridges, and Dams with semi-urban habitats and their needs of livelihood, climatic conditions so the need and requirement and situation is entirely different from other states. Therefore, Bihar has an opportunity to learn from Kerala flood as well.

He also admired the political willingness and commitment of District collectors/administration, enforcement agencies in emergency phase in Kerala and need to acquire information and knowledge sharing to regulate in Bihar as well. In a special way, Fr. Paul acknowledged the local fishermen’s role in the evacuation process during Kerala Flood. Altogether, 4537 fishermen participated in the rescue with 669 fishing boats. Most Importantly, he recalled the role of faith-based organization especially the Church based organizations in flood responses in Kerala. In Kerala, 700 churches and dioceses were opened as relief camps during emergency and volunteers, priests and Caritas India staff worked tirelessly for the disaster-affected marginalized people such as tribals, Dalits, farmers, women, children, PwDs, fishermen and old aged people. He also put emphasis on the need to have the right people in right place in any disaster situation. He also conveyed the way forward plan of Caritas India in terms of disaster response i.e. exploring CSR opportunities, promoting volunteerism, child-centric approach, advocacy and networking with like-minded agencies, resource mobilization etc.