Voices of rural people: Community-level assessment of effects and resilience to natural disasters in Odisha, India
Globally, natural disasters have caused a large scale of damage and destruction every year, affecting millions of people, the economy, and development – and developing countries are the most severely affected. Odisha is one of India’s most disaster-prone states. This study explores the effects of, and resilience to, cyclones, floods, droughts, and heatwaves in Odisha, and identifies government strategies that help mitigate these natural disasters. We mainly used primary data collected through a qualitative study undertaken from April 2017 to June 2017 in three districts of Odisha. We conducted in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with community members and key stakeholders at different levels. In addition, our study analyzed secondary data on natural disasters using DesInventar, a disaster information management system data source. The findings show that floods, cyclones, and drought in recent years, along with heatwaves and lightning, have severely affected the people of Odisha. The impacts of these natural disasters are calamitous – particularly on livelihoods, food security, health, water, and sanitation. These natural disasters, which have affected agriculture, fisheries, prawn cultivation, roadside vendors, and daily wage laborers, have both short- and long-term effects on the livelihoods of people in Odisha, leaving them with scarce employment opportunities. The vulnerable and marginalized sections of the population have been the most severely affected, and common coping mechanisms have included selling off livestock, borrowing food, taking loans and mortgages, and migration. The government’s measures/programs, such as an Early Warning System, Public Distribution System, Multipurpose Cyclone Rehabilitation Centers, Seasonal Residential Care Centers, and Indira Awas Yojana, play a major role in mitigating the effect of disasters among rural communities. Our study indicates that natural disasters have impacted the population of the state socioeconomically, physically, and psychologically. The effect on livelihoods, directly and indirectly, exacerbates income, food security, and health. There is an urgent need to focus on reducing people’s underlying vulnerabilities by taking proactive measures, engaging the community in decision-making, and generating alternative and sustainable livelihoods.
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