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Natural hazards and disasters

India’s progress is increasingly slowed by natural hazards. Odisha (Orissa) and Bihar states are seriously affected by floods every year – particularly the Mahanadi River delta region and the Kosi-Gandak flood plains.

In addition to floods, the coastal region of the Mahanadi delta experiences repeated cyclones and in September 2011 the region saw 2 major floods, affecting two thirds of the state’s districts and 2.2 million people.

Irrigation projects and flood mitigation, however, had damaging implications for wetland ecosystems, leading to sedimentation of river beds and siltation of drainage channels and other wetlands.

irrigation canal     

Effects on people

People who live on the Kosi-Gandak flood plain and in the Mahanadi delta region are mainly farmers and fisher folk. These are densely populated areas with a high dependence on natural resources for household and livelihood needs. Floods are a recurrent reality to the large population in this area and affect their lives and livelihoods.

Local people lack basic amenities, communities are poorly represented and inadequately consulted by policy-makers, and institutions are weak; all this limits opportunities for economic diversification

What PfR does

The programme centres on analysing the causal factors behind risk in a way that integrates environmental, social and institutional factors, and develops effective responses. Good water resources management and especially the role of a connected and natural delta system are promoted as key to decrease vulnerability to floods.

Interventions are aimed at building capacities of local communities, creating an effective information base, creating and strengthening local institutions for natural-resource management, and linking development policies and programmes at all scales. Partners collected evidence on the important role of community-based risk management institutions in preparedness and response.

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A cluster approach

In the Mahanadi delta in Orissa, India, coastal villages with similar risk patterns are working together to improve livelihood resilience. To help link the risk-reduction plans of these villages and create opportunities for joint actions, a cluster approach is being adopted by the local PfR partners.

Most of these villages face hazards such as tidal inundation, storms, saline intrusion and coastal erosion. If the risk reduction plans are limited to village boundaries, the interventions take the form of constructing structures that reduce the intrusion of sea water, protect from cyclones and so on.

Taken as a cluster, coastal villages can jointly invest in greening the coastline, maintaining a free flow of water to reduce waterlogging, managing upstream hydraulic structures, and several other options. These enable planning for climate adaptation interventions on a reasonable scale, linking physical interventions with policy processes and capacity building.


Total beneficiaries:

Project locations: 
Mahanadi Delta (Odisha state), Gandak-Kosi-Son flood plains (Bihar state)

Implementing partners: 
Wetlands International, Cordaid, local partners