South Asia is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world. In 2015, the region accounted for 64% of total global fatalities due to natural hazards. The region usually registers the greatest numbers of lives and assets lost, resulting in great social and economic challenges for all countries in the region.
The South Asian Disaster Report is one of the key outputs of Duryog Nivaran, a research, training and advocacy network committed to promoting disaster risk reduction in South Asia. . Published with financial assistance from Christian Aid, the SADR 2016 has been produced in collaboration with Practical Action Nepal and other member agencies and individuals. The SADR 2016 presents learning from the region and examines realistic ways of operationalising the Building Back Better (BBB) principles to address the underlying drivers and structural weaknesses that lead to creation of risks at the on-set. It highlights the critical role that has to be played by civil society organisations, citizens, and local and national governments in building back better after hazards in order to ensure resilient communities.
Building Back Better (BBB)
Published every two years (with exceptions), the report usually focuses on one theme related to disaster management. For the 2016 publication, Duryog Nivaran chose to highlight the “Build Back Better” approach, which is one of the four “Priority Actions” for the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) that emphasises:
Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and to “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
SADR 2016 gives an overview of best practices that were implemented in South Asian countries in relation to the holistic approach of BBB, as well as what could be improved in implementing disaster risk reduction strategies. The BBB approach enables to “think outside the box” by challenging international DRR policymaking against concrete implementation experience in the field.
The case studies relating to the BBB approach that we find in the report cover 5 target countries in the region and their main disaster events in recent years
• Nepal: Gorkha 2015 earthquake
• India: Uttarakhand floods, cyclones Phailin and Hudhud in 2013
• Bangladesh: Cyclones Sidr 2007 and Cyclone Aila 2009
• Pakistan: Monsoon floods in 2012 and 2013
• Sri Lanka: Meeriyabedda landslide in 2014 It also features a regional case study on risk for cultural heritage.
Building a knowledge base
“Building a knowledge base at the national and community level is our main focus, while we also aim to demonstrate how the BBB recommendations of Sendai Framework will hold up against the institutional, resource and capacity aspects in the context of South Asia” insisted Muhammad Taher, one of the founding members of Duryog Nivaran and its current Steering Committee. He further adds that the report is not an evaluation or a review of work or policies, but a collaborative thinking on what works and can work better.
SADR 2016 highlights the impacts of community resilience programmes, using evidence-based research to analyse system performance. The report is conceptualised as a means to feed into DRR international frameworks and enhance understanding of the most effective ways to implement and deliver the BBB approach, in line with the local realities and the realities of vulnerable communities.
The report analyses the benefits of adopting the BBB approach but, most importantly, how it can be effectively implemented. Building back better during the recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction phase implies a holistic approach that involves every stakeholder. As explained by Mr Taher, “Sustainability of the benefits generated by the interventions, is often ignored in the recovery phase. It is unfortunately often the issue with disaster management programmes and strategies”. There is an increasing need for a structural change in the spheres of institutional, governance, economic and social transformations to reduce disaster risks.
The report underlines the importance of a more inclusive development model that does not exclude the population groups most at risk. A complete BBB approach tackles the reduction of poverty and social injustice, and thus supports a sustainable development which gives countries, regions, and communities the opportunities to assess their vulnerability to disasters and prepare sustainably by building back better. So far, the “Build Back Better” principles are working well in South Asia, but we should not be complacent as there are areas where we still need improvements, for example, we need to remove the stereotypes that views women only as victims rather than an active partner in DRR and find how post disaster BBB might differ in challenges and opportunities from that of the post-conflict situation”, concluded Taher.
The case studies illustrate the leadership role women often take in time of catastrophes. Food security is another important point policymakers have to factor in, the issue being pivotal to reducing the vulnerability of South Asian communities.
For SADR 2016, it is essential for policymakers to comprehend local realities even before adopting DRR frameworks.
The BBB approach helps to ensure that institutional preparedness is adequate. “The focus on BBB approaches has to deepen in the South Asian region; it is time to look ahead”, concluded Mr. Taher.