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Integrating climate change concerns into disaster management planning: The case of Gorakhpur, India

Image courtesy iStock © Gawrav Sinha

Summary of Adaptation Challenge

Gorakhpur District is recognised as one of the most flood-prone districts in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, India. The data over the past 100 years show a considerable increase in the intensity and frequency of floods, which are now recurring every 3–4 years. Gorakhpur District is home to 4.4 million people, most of whom live in rural areas. Roughly 20% of the population is affected by floods, and in some areas, flooding has become an annual occurrence, causing huge loss of life, health and livelihoods for the poor inhabitants, and extensive damage to public and private property.

This case study, Integrating climate change concerns into disaster management planning: The case of Gorakhpur, India, by Shiraz A. Wajih of the Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group and Shashikant Chopde of the Institute of Social and Environmental Transition, describes how the programme implemented by START and CDKN is currently addressing many of these issues in Gorakhpur. It looks at how the programme was developed, what factors have contributed to its success, and evaluates how a climate ­mainstreaming programme such as Gorakhpur’s might inspire other local governments in a similar position.

Lessons learned

  • The District Disaster Management Plans created as a result of India’s Disaster Management Act (2005) can be an effective mechanism 
for promoting climate­ sensitive planning at district level.
  • Integrating climate concerns in District Disaster Management Plans requires proper facilitation of the Shared Learning process with various departments at district level using the Climate Resilience Framework.
  • The Shared Learning process is critical to developing the capacity of various departments to understand, appreciate, plan and respond to climate risks.
  • Climate projections must be appropriately interpreted and presented in a way that fosters understanding of their implications for development programmes in various departments.

Challenges faced

Because of the key enabling factors highlighted above, the programme was able to exceed its initial goals. But it also faced some challenges at the district level:

1. Lack of comprehensive understand- ing of vulnerability and its contributing factors, as well as a lack of a clear and systematic plan in departments to collect and synthesise data on vulnerability.

Strategy: The programme worked with various departments (including the lowest-ranked officers at the village level) directly through the iterative SLD consultations, facilitating joint understanding of vulnerability issues from the Climate Resilience Framework lens, and analysing departmental and inter-departmental issues related to vulnerability. Further, the DDMP and various departmentplans have been revised to incorporate data collection on impacts, damages and losses to department plans have been revised to incorporate data collection on impacts, damages and losses to department infrastructure in all future flooding and in the district.

2. Lack of understanding of department staff, especially on the implications of climate change for their department plans and programmes.

Strategy: The programme developed this understanding through the structured iterative SLD process. In contrast to stakeholder consultations conducted in piecemeal fashion, the SLD takes participants through a step-by-step process to develop understanding of comprehensive vulnerability issues and identify specific resilience building actions.

3. Lack of effective horizontal coordination among departments.

Strategy: As part of the SLD process, the programme worked with the DDMA and subsequently with its members in various departments individually to develop joint understanding of interdepartmental issues that influence vulnerability.

4. Lack of availability of climate projects, downscaled and interpreted in a meaningful way.

Strategy: The programme overcame this by using simple-to-decipher results on extreme (precipitation) event analysis from other projects of ISET-GEAG.

5. Damages due to floods are assessed just from the viewpoint of assessing compensation needs. No detailed analysis is undertaken to understand root causes of vulnerability.

Strategy: The programme used the Climate Resilience Framework that unpacks complex vulnerability issues into four components- systems, institutions, agents and exposure.

Policy messages

Climate change is no longer a distant concern, especially for district level government departments and DDMAs. There are four key needs to be addressed specifically in the subnational/district level context:

  • One single department or authority needs to have a clear mandate to work on tackling the impacts of climate change at the local level (e.g. the DDMA for Gorakhpur).
  • There is a need to bring the scientific and complex knowledge of climate change to the district level in a simple, clear way that highlights the implications of climate change for departmental plans and programmes. This can be achieved by conducting relevant additional analysis (such as extreme event analysis for floods) on the data from available Global Circulation Models and regional Circulation Models.
  • There is a lack of frameworks to analyse vulnerability in a comprehensive way and the Climate Resilience Framework is an effective tool to fill this gap.
  • There is a lack of understanding on how to respond to climate change at district level and hence, there is a need to build capacity through training.

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