HEADING TOWARDS THE FUTURE WE WANT
by trinet on Sat, 06/30/2012 - 12:32
HEADING TOWARDS THE FUTURE WE WANT
The tamasha is over. Months of anticipation, weeks of negotiation, days of discussion on ways and means that should move us forward towards a cleaner and greener society. The outcome document titled "The future we want" has a section on disaster risk reduction. From the perspective of DRR practitioners, can we think of the building of a disaster resilient community as the future we want?
Rio+20. Two decades after the Earth Summit, weeks of negotiation, days of discussion on ways and means that should move us forward towards a cleaner and greener society got over on 22nd June with the outcome document titled ‘The Future We Want’. Twenty years since the Earth Summit where three international treaties were signed, where a document, Agenda 21, that still serves as a blueprint for sustainable development was evolved. 45,000 people are reported to have got together with high hopes of saving planet earth. But what was achieved? A declaration stitched-up by civil servants according to Fred Pearce, the noted environment writer who was at the 1992 summit. No oceans treaty was finalized, no accountable commitments were made by nations. Perhaps we need to take heart from Brazilian President Dilma who stressed that Rio+20 was the most participatory conference in history and was a “global expression of democracy.”
Twenty years ago, the world was ruled by optimism. Environment had become the new buzz word. First internationalized in the Stockholm Declaration in 1972, the world had accepted that a healthy environment was necessary for humanity’s continued comfortable survival on earth. Sustainable Development, articulated by the WCED in 1987 became the mantra by which environmental protection would be enabled. As each decade went by, new problems and issues raised their heads – threat to the ozone hole, rising seas due to climate change, chemical pollution at the molecular level, and disasters.
Though India is prone to a variety of natural hazards and we are no strangers to earthquakes, cyclones, floods and droughts, it was the 2004 tsunami that brought in an understanding of the vulnerability of coastal communities. Hundreds of thousands had been affected in the supercyclone that struck Orissa, the earthquakes that struck Latur and Bhuj; but the tsunami was something spectacular. It did not affect just one district or two in a state – as is common with cyclones and earthquakes, but four states in India and a dozen countries in the Indian Ocean Region. That event resulted in inclusion of a hazard line in the CRZ notification, the enactment of the Disaster Management Act in 2005.
The 2004 tsunami triggered, more than the Kobe earthquake or anything before it, the need for enabling disaster resilient communities.There has been a lot of activity in this direction with multiple approaches being used and multiple constituencies being targetted.
There is a separate section on Disaster Risk Reduction in the outcome document of the Rio+20 summit where Heads of State and high-level representatives urged States, international financial institutions, international organizations and civil society "to accelerate implementation" of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters. There is now a clear understanding that “coordinated and comprehensive strategies that integrate disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation considerations into public and private investment, decision-making and the planning of humanitarian and development actions, in order to reduce risk, increase resilience and provide a smoother transition between relief, recovery and development”. At the summit, Koichiro Gemba, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Japan, announced funding for a three-year programme of disaster risk reduction, a small start but it is hoped that more nations and institutions would follow in both pledges and in action.
From the perspective of DRR practitioners, can we think of the building of a disaster resilient community as the future we want? Surely a large number of people will vote for this idea though it is neither novel nor new. Resilience is supposed to be a broader concept than capacity and though the concept of a disaster resilient community is a mere ideal, it is possible to progress towards it by minimizing its vulnerability and maximizing application of DRR processes.
John Twigg’s Characteristics of a Disaster-Resilient Community: A Guidance Note set out in the form of tables the components of resilience, the characteristics of a resilient community and characteristics of an enabling environment under the five thematic areas of the HFA. One of the five areas is Risk Assessment which includes Hazards/risk data and assessment, vulnerability and impact data and assessment and scientific and technical capacities and innovation. This specific aspect is highlighted in Paragraph 187 of the Rio+20 outcome document which says “We further recognize the importance of comprehensive hazard and risk assessments, and knowledge- and information sharing, including reliable geospatial information. We commit to undertake and strengthen in a timely manner risk assessment and disaster risk reduction instruments”.
In this context, attention must be drawn to Sir John Beddington’s appeal – for the use of plainer language by scientists if they are to play a larger role in policymaking. At an event at Rio+20, he said that “"Climate change and better weather technology allow us to predict extremes well in advance and to do it well. But if we move from the purely physical and biological sciences to include behavioral and social sciences, we can improve also how we communicate risk and help communities to improve their response." Thus what is required is efforts to remove barriers that have been separating science and society. Speaking specifically of using satellite imagery for DRR, this is something that can be done with simple training. Coastal vulnerability mapping on a technical scale is being done by INCOIS but at a local level, with simpler tools such as google maps, Bedroc has been able to achieve some breakthrough where local communities participate in the mapping process to make their communities more resilient.