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Rajeev MM

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International Journal of Social Work and Human Services Practice Horizon Research Publishing
Vol.2. No.6 Dec, 2014, pp. 207-212
Sustainability and Community Empowerment in
Disaster Management
Rajeev. M.M
Department of Social Work, Amrita University, Kollam, Kerala
*Corresponding Author: rajeevmm@am.amrita.edu
Abstract The community is at the frontier of any kind of
natural hazard and disaster. Empowering the community by
internalizing the tools and methods of disaster risk reduction
is a good way to deal with future potential risks. Community
empowerment is a type of capacity development where its
members decide on the goals and strategies for disaster risk
management, contribute some, if not all, of the resources
needed, and monitor their performance (Asian Disaster
Preparedness Center,2013).The most common elements of
community involvement are partnership, participation,
empowerment and ownership by the local people. Unless the
disaster management efforts are sustainable at individual and
community level, it is difficult to reduce the losses and scale
of the tragedy. The objectives of this paper are: 1) to discuss
the emerging needs of survivors during the various phases of
the post-disaster situation; 2) to emphasize the need for
designing interventions incorporating the principles of
sustainability and community empowerment and; 3) to focus
our attention toward management of disasters technologies
and disaster preparedness programs that foster the
resilience.The utility of the empowerment approach in
addressing the socio-economic conditions of local
communities and the active involvement of
disaster-affected people in the pre- and post-disaster
initiatives is argued as a requisite to deal with disasters in a
more effective and efficient way.
Keywords Empowerment, Sustainability, Disaster Risk
Management, Andaman & Nicobar Islands
Introduction
According to the Center for Research on the
Epidemiology of Disasters (2013) annual disaster statistics
review, 357 natural disasters occurred worldwide in the year
2012, which was less than the average natural disaster
frequency from 2002 to 2011(394). 9,655 people were killed
in 2012 by natural disasters and 124.5 million people were
affected globally. Hydro-meteorological disasters accounted
for 74% (US$2.6 trillion) of total reported losses, 87%
(18,200) of total disaster events, and 61% (1.4 million) of
total lives lost. From 1980 to 2012, disaster-related losses
amounted to US$3,800 billion worldwide. Some 87% of
these reported disasters (18,200 events), 74% of losses
(US$2,800 billion (Munich Re 2013). The economic
damages from natural disasters in 2012 were estimated at
US$ 157 billion.
Disaster management, which involves prevention,
mitigation, preparedness, response and rehabilitation efforts,
has been discussed for a long time. In short, such
management stages can be classified into before, during and
after event activities. Disaster preparedness can be referred
to as all measures taken to prepare in advance, aiming at
reducing the impact of possible disasters (R. Osti and K.
Miyake, 2013).
Disasters, Communities and Empowerment: Disaster risk
is on the rise throughout the world. Over the past two to three
decades, the economic losses and the number of people who
have been affected by natural disasters have increased more
rapidly than both economic and population growth. The
physical, social and economic losses caused by these
disasters are particularly harsh for developing countries since
they have a long-range effect in the development process.
The impacts of the disasters are deeply related with the
socio-economic conditions, traditions, cultures, and climates
of communities. The most common elements of community
involvement are partnership, participation, empowerment
and ownership by the local people. The emphasis of disaster
management efforts should focus on communities and the
people who live in them. Unless the disaster management
efforts are sustainable at individual and community level, it
is difficult to reduce the losses and scale of the tragedy.
Opportunities are needed where people can be involved from
the initial programming stage of disaster management
activities.
The significance of community–based activities where
people participate alongside government officials and
experts group, as the direct stakeholders of these activities, is
imperative. While people should own the problems,
consequences and challenges of any mitigation and/or
ISSN: 2332-6840 (Online) 2332-6832 (Print) Copyright © 2014 Horizon Research Publishing
Rajeev. M.M Horizon Research Publishing
preparedness initiative, it is also necessary to take people’s
involvement further, into policy and strategy. This process
induces a sense of ownership for people and can result in
their continuous engagement and long-term commitment to
these activities. Involvement of communities is important in
both pre-disaster mitigation and post-disaster response and
recovery processes. Major benefits of the community based
risk assessment, mitigation planning and implementation
processes include building confidence, pride in being able to
make a difference, and enhanced capabilities to pursue
disaster preparedness and mitigation. Additionally,
individual and community ownership, commitment and
concerted actions in disaster mitigation, including resource
mobilization, produce a wide range of appropriate,
innovative and do-able mitigation solutions, which are
cost-effective and sustainable. The most common elements
of community involvement are partnership, participation,
empowerment and ownership by the local people. Unless
disaster management efforts are sustainable at individual and
community levels, it is difficult to reduce the losses and scale
of the tragedy (UNCRD, 2004).
This paper highlights the various needs and concerns of
disaster-affected people in each phase of the disaster,
especially in the post disaster context. The empowerment of
the community will be attained only through sustainable
planning and supportive activities. Needs assessment,
analyzing, priority fixation, and implementations all need to
be considered in a post-disaster situation. Policy level
changes, adherence and stakeholder participation in the total
disaster management function are imperative and
meaningful. The following brief literature review explains
the empowerment and sustainability concept in disaster
management and presents concrete steps to be taken to
ensure effective disaster management.
Review of Literature
Effective community participation is an educational and
empowering process whereby communities identify the
problems and needs and assume responsibility to plan,
manage, control and assess the collective action that are
necessary. While disasters can strike a region or a nation,
their impacts can be felt at the community level. It is these
communities that constitute what is referred to as “disaster
fronts”. Being at the forefront, communities need to have the
capacity to respond to threats themselves. It is for this reason
that communities should be involved in managing the risks
that may threaten their well-being. While different
community empowerment programmes related to disaster
mitigation have achieved their objectives, they are often
short-term, and issues of sustainability in these efforts are
rarely addressed. Government, non-government and
international organizations implement various programmes
before and after the disasters. Most of them are very
successful during the project period, but gradually diminish
as the years pass. There are many reasons for this kind of
phenomena, however, lack of effective participation and
capacity building of the local communities to peruse
programs remains a major factor for lack of sustainability. In
the past, top decisions came from higher authorities based on
their perception of the needs. The communities serve as mere
“victims” or receivers of aid. In practice though, this
approach was proven to be ineffective. It fails to meet the
appropriate and vital humanitarian needs. Moreover, it
increases requirements for unnecessary external resources
and creates general dissatisfaction over performance, despite
exceptional management measures. This is due to the fact
that the community, as the primary stakeholder and recipient
of the direct impact of disasters was involved in the
implementation of activities. On the other hand,
communities, if left alone, have limited resources to fully
cope with disasters. In many developing and underdeveloped
countries, those who suffer the most are the poor, who, in the
first place, have limited survival resources and do not enjoy
adequate infrastructure and access to social services.
It is also significant to say something about Sustainability
in Community Based Disaster Management. Sustainability
can be thought of either as a fundamental system property, or
as a long term, probably unattainable, social goal, and
sustainable development as the immediate policy agenda
attending that goal. Societies looking for sustainable
development are characterized as being resilient, responding
in an organized manner and recovering more efficiently from
a disaster. Incorporating risk management into the planning
process, both for the sectors as much as local authorities,
allows those countries with public policies orientated
towards development and growth to have a better chance of
success than those which do not take them into account (Toro
Joaquin, 2014).
In the Year 2002, UNCRD launched a three-year project
titled “Sustainability in Community Based Disaster
Management”, to study the effectiveness of grass-root
projects and to suggest policy input for sustainability (which
would be useful for the different communities to take future
actions). This was to help to understand the gaps in
community initiatives, and to take corrective action in future.
The study would be an evaluation of what has been done so
far in Community Based Disaster Management, with specific
examples from field experiences, and what should be done in
future for the sustainability of these efforts. In this study, the
inter-linkages of government, non-government, academics,
and international organizations should be reflected in terms
of concrete projects and initiatives, and a model of
cooperation would be established (Rajib Shaw & Kenji
Okazaki, (2002).
Sustainability means recognizing and making best use of
the interconnection between social, economic and
environmental goals to reduce significant hazard risks. This
entails the ability to reduce one’s exposure to, and recover
from, infrequent large-scale, but also frequent smaller scale,
natural and human driven events. The bottom line for any
country, especially the poorest, is to build sustainable
communities thriving from generation to generation, with a
International Journal of Social Work and Human Services Practice 209
Vol.2. No.6 Dec, 2014, pp. 207-212
social foundation that provides for health, respects cultural
diversity and considers the needs of future generations. They
require a healthy and diverse ecological system that is
life-sustaining and productive, with a healthy and diverse
economy that adapts to change and recognizes social and
ecological limits.
The author explains the emerging needs of survivors
during the various phases of the post-disaster situation.
Many of the relief agencies were keen to address the
immediate physical or mental health needs and not the
long-term and changing needs of the survivors. This myopic
view of the needs of disaster victims may result in lopsided
disaster interventions which can have detrimental effects on
vulnerable groups, especially the powerless, relocated, poor,
elderly, women, and children. Moreover, in this paradigm,
concerns regarding employment, sustainable livelihood,
rebuilding the social institutions, and capacity building to
weather future threats, arise much later. Hence, a
comprehensive disaster needs assessment is essential in any
disaster situation and must include the following
components: (a) it must be on-going and capture the
emerging needs of the survivors; (b) must assess the
psychological consequences of the disaster, especially on
vulnerable groups; (c) must include a framework to assess
the economic and social impact of the disaster; and (d) must
examine the various vulnerabilities of the community that
put them at risk for future threats.
The post-tsunami period in the Andaman and Nicobar
Islands offered an opportunity to restore affected housing
and living conditions of the large number of people whose
homes were destroyed or badly damaged. Such a process of
restoration of people’s lives needed to take place, keeping in
mind basic human rights principles of gender equality,
nondiscrimination and participation. The feedback which the
author collected from various stakeholders, especially
disaster survivors from Bambooflat, Tushnabad, Vandoor
and other parts of the South Andaman, points out in detail the
inadequacy of response from the authorities. Secondly, it is
inevitable to emphasize the need for designing interventions
incorporating the principles of sustainability and community
empowerment. Fulfilling long term needs of the survivors of
disaster, community driven approaches and interventions are
required. The active involvement of an affected community
in each phase of disaster management operations is a great
pressing need. That engagement will be helpful in a
successful and sustainable emergency management initiative
and, thereby, ensure the resilience and coping of community
members and the overall empowerment of the community.
Management of Disasters: Focusing the
Crucial Linkages
The best learning from all disasters in the past is
imperative to change our attention towards a more proactive
way of managing disasters using cutting edge technologies
and disaster preparedness programs that foster the resilience
of people prone to hazards.
Why should we have Community-based disaster
Preparedness?
Community is the first to suffer and the first real-time
responder in any disaster
• It is the ultimate target of any disaster preparedness and
mitigation plans
• It provides a reservoir of time tested indigenous
knowledge of coping mechanisms
• It has the most authentic local knowledge on risks and
vulnerabilities
• Community prepares vulnerability and risk maps by
‘default’ and those plans are connected with their daily lives
and livelihoods
• Community is the best assessor of disaster damages
• It can also be the best evaluator of disaster recovery
• It will assume ownership of plans and programmes
• It facilitates social mobilisation that empowers
community.
• It facilitates easier identification of vulnerable groups.
(Dasgupta, 2011).
While everyone living in disaster-prone areas is
vulnerable, some groups such as children, the elderly, and
people with disabilities are more vulnerable than others.
Therefore, the needs of vulnerable groups should be
addressed specifically in preparedness and relief operations.
In Sri Lanka, district committees and NGOs have prepared
lists of the elderly and disabled people in their areas, and
some NGOs have formed groups of volunteers who are
responsible for caring for the elderly during emergencies.
The Department of Meteorology is conducting several
programs to improve disaster preparedness in coastal schools
from Panadura to Hambantota (BEDROC, 2006). These
programs teach children how to identify evacuation routes
and prepare for disasters. Children then share this
information with their families (Oxfam Field Studies, 2006).
A study jointly conducted by Oxfam International and
Bedrock (2006) on communities' perceptions of disasters, aid
their own response capacity. While occurrence of these
natural disasters cannot be prevented altogether, their
adverse impact can be reduced substantially by undertaking
various preparedness and mitigation measures by
community involvement. Minimizing the loss of precious
human life is the first priority in disaster management.
Significant achievement has been made in the designing of
disaster resistant houses and inventing quality building
materials to withstand the fury of natural disasters (Kumar,
2008).
Disaster Management- Learned Points-
Recommendations
Capacity Building/ Training Local Youth
It is a weathered fact that the local communities’ role in a
Rajeev. M.M Horizon Research Publishing
disaster situation is crucial in saving lives and other aspects.
Therefore, it is essential to train the local youth in basic
emergency response, be it paramedical, forming
communication links or responding to emergencies.
Community Based Disaster Management Plans and mock
drills will be undertaken to ensure better preparedness.
Efforts will be made to minimize vulnerability of
disadvantaged groups like women, children, elders,
physically and mentally challenged, and other marginalized
groups. Aspects of reducing/minimizing the long-term
impacts of various disasters on these vulnerable sections will
be an integral part of the strategic plan.
Linking Traditional Knowledge & Technology
Disaster management authorities need to ensure that early
warning systems (to be used in disaster prone areas) and the
dissemination of warning and plans for risk avoidance
actions are people-centered (i.e., they are tailored for local
use and they incorporate the traditional knowledge of the
local communities with regard to coping with natural
disasters). The disaster management apparatus needs to catch
early warnings from the disaster-prone areas and take prompt
action subsequently. Other important recommendations are:
the development of effective communication systems in the
country; public awareness and education campaigns on
disaster management; the application of latest technology for
disaster preparedness (e.g., Geographic Information System,
Remote Sensing, Communication Satellites, etcetera.); and
the promotion of risk transfer options like insurance.
Role of Public Health Institutions
The Government must take strong initiatives for
expanding the network of public healthcare institutions,
especially in the rural areas, improving their manpower and
infrastructure and giving proper guidelines regarding their
role in the wake of a disaster. In post-disaster some of the
agencies expressed similar kinds of suggestions on various
platforms. In Tamilnadu and Kerala many of the leading
international agencies, including UN bodies, were keen on
teaching the community or specific targeted groups to
understand and practice various technologies in connection
with the disaster preparedness programme. In Kerala where
health systems are comparatively well established compared
to other States, it would be possible to integrate disaster
management programmes through Primary Health Centres
and Community Health Centres. The changes should come
within the self, groups, and in the community itself.
Therefore, Government should organize and facilitate such
activities in the coming days to ensure people’s participation
and coordination in the pre and post-disaster and emergency
context. In this context, it is very important to strengthen the
primary healthcare institutions, which must be accessible to
a widely divergent population. Healthcare institutions at
different levels – primary, secondary, and tertiary – should
be given well-defined and mutually supportive roles
vis-à-vis disaster management. At the village level,
emergency healthcare providers, with proper training in
life-saving skills, need to be deployed so that they can
provide essential services to local communities during
disasters.
Decentralizing Disaster Management
There should be decentralization of disaster management
efforts – in terms of involving the village Panchayats and
other local bodies in both planning and implementation of
disaster preparedness measures specific to their areas. As we
have already noted, the processes of dissemination of
warning and risk avoidance action necessarily depend on the
active participation of local people in a disaster-prone area.
Hence, the Panchayats and other local bodies should have
substantial roles to play in these activities. In fact, the
planning towards management of natural disasters has to
combine both the ‘top down’ approach and the ‘bottom up’
approach. Among the various measures for disaster
mitigation mentioned above there is the need to:, ensure that
development plans incorporate disaster mitigation norms;
catch early warnings; predict natural disasters in time, issue
warnings from the disaster management authorities; ensure
the availability of necessary hardware (such as, search and
rescue equipment, high wind-proof radio masts, emergency
communication infrastructure, etcetera); have an emergency
response plan; activate the emergency response plan
promptly during a disaster; and provide comprehensive as
well as effective relief and rehabilitation to the people
affected. These actions could be undertaken with a top down
planning approach. However, several important activities
also need to be undertaken, such as: creating awareness
among people; promotion of disaster mitigation and
preparedness measures among the local communities;
dissemination of warning among people in the affected areas;
evacuation of people to safer places in the event of a disaster;
and taking precautionary measures in the post-disaster
situation (such as against epidemics) all need to be
undertaken with a bottom up planning approach. The local
self-government bodies must have a major say in the latter.
Integrating Disaster Management with Development
Planning
All aspects of disaster management need to integrate with
the normal development planning at all levels. Additionally,
relevant departments should earmark a certain portion of the
plan budget to undertake preparedness and prevention
measures. Disaster risk reduction activities need to
strengthen in the country.
Preparedness Needs
Locally appropriate prevention measures such as
bio-shields, sea walls and other measures must be erected to
prevent further erosion and disasters; a Disaster
International Journal of Social Work and Human Services Practice 211
Vol.2. No.6 Dec, 2014, pp. 207-212
Preparedness Plan must be drawn up for action at various
levels and must be part of the Annual Development Plan;
there must be Regular Disaster Preparedness Drills at
community and institutional levels (Orissa Model) on fixed
dates to prepare local communities in disaster preparedness;
Government officials must be easily accessible and available
on all days (even on holidays) in times of Emergency, as in
the days following December 26, 2004.
Empowering the Local Community
Disasters can be mitigated if local communities and
Government are adequately equipped to handle them. While
appreciating the overwhelming solidarity with the victims of
the Tsunami, the participants asserted that local communities
must be made capable to spearhead any relief and
rehabilitation operation in the wake of a disaster in a
participatory manner. What is needed is the creation of
“hazard-resilient bio-regional communities”
(T.Karunakaran,2006) with emergency reshuffle plans
handled by fully-equipped and well-prepared Disaster
Prevention and Preparedness Committees of village clusters.
He also said that it is not out of place for each Panchayat Raj
to create some kind of emergency corpus funds so that
people can have immediate access to relief. This would
enhance their self-esteem and make them proactive in times
of disaster. In addition, identifying the immediate needs to
combat any further deterioration in disaster management and
effective reconstruction, such as the installation of early
warning systems; streamlining of relief distribution systems;
launching public awareness campaigns; and issuing
guidelines to relief workers all aid in effective disaster
management.
Disaster Management in Educational Curriculum
To inculcate a culture of preparedness and prevention,
disaster management will be incorporated in the education
system and curricula at all levels. The students should be
exposed to mock drills to develop requisite intuitive skills.
Crucial Community Participation
The Government will actively promote, through its own
agencies, NGOs and other stakeholders, active community
participation in risk assessment, vulnerability analysis,
mitigation, planning and implementation of response and
rehabilitation activities. Since the communities face the
brunt of any hazard, strengthening their coping mechanism
will receive the highest priority.
Revision and Updating of the Policy
The government should revise and update the disaster and
emergency related policies as and when required.
Conclusion
In brief, it is evident that disaster management is not a
stand-alone activity. A well-structured people-centric,
coordinated and integrated effort is the need, of the hour, to
deal with disaster and emergency situations in the country.
The work should start from the bottom to the top: the
community should take up the ownership of the activity.
The community can act immediately in a cohesive and
efficient manner, when they are well trained with their
boosted and they recognized. The role of local
self-government in managing natural disasters is of
paramount importance and effective, technical and practical
oriented capacity development exercises need to be provided
to the Panchayathi Raj Institutions throughout the country, as
India is considered the “theatre of disasters”. Undoubtedly,
we can say that team effort, with the “effective” participation
of government and community, can make a difference to
disaster management programmes. Effective management is
possible only if a comprehensive plan and implementation
mechanism programmes are chartered out. The post-tsunami
scenario gives us a grave lesson to learn concerning the do’s
and don’ts that should be practiced giving insight into
activities that need to be employed; the role and
responsibilities of each and every person who are directly or
indirectly affected by the disaster; and so on. Such a study,
analysis and implementation could help contribute in
reducing or eliminating the consequences arising in the wake
of a disaster or any kind of emergency which shakes the
entire fabric of a community or the lives of the people.
The linkage between urban growth, climate change
adaptation, and sustainable development should be
self-evident. Measures to manage urban growth and
adaptation to climate change will need to be integrated into
strategies for poverty reduction to ensure sustainable
development. The land management perspective and the role
of the operational component of land administration systems,
therefore, needs high-level political support and recognition.
The active involvement of disaster-affected people in the pre
and post-disaster initiatives is not a need but a requisite to
deal with disasters in a more effective and efficient way.
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Action Aid International, (2007). What we do: Emergencies:
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Context, Action Aid Publication, South Africa.
Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, (2004). Program Completion
Report: Asian Urban Disaster Mitigation Program. Asian Disaster
Preparedness Center (ADPC). Bangkok, Thailand.
Bhadra M.R.et.al, (2003). Empowering Communities to Cope with
Disaster Risks through Community Based Disaster Management
UNCRD Disaster Management planning Hyogo office; People,
Communities and Disasters, proceedings on international workshop
on earthquake safer world in the 21stcentury, Kobe, Japan.
Rajeev. M.M Horizon Research Publishing
Building and Enabling Disaster Resilience of Coastal Communities
(BEDROC), Reports, and Humanitarian field studies, 2004, Annie
George, Nagapattinam, South India.
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Damon Coppola, (2007). Introduction to International Disaster
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R. Shaw, N Britton, M Gupta (eds); (2008). PNY: Towards
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Rajeev MM

  • 1. International Journal of Social Work and Human Services Practice Horizon Research Publishing Vol.2. No.6 Dec, 2014, pp. 207-212 Sustainability and Community Empowerment in Disaster Management Rajeev. M.M Department of Social Work, Amrita University, Kollam, Kerala *Corresponding Author: rajeevmm@am.amrita.edu Abstract The community is at the frontier of any kind of natural hazard and disaster. Empowering the community by internalizing the tools and methods of disaster risk reduction is a good way to deal with future potential risks. Community empowerment is a type of capacity development where its members decide on the goals and strategies for disaster risk management, contribute some, if not all, of the resources needed, and monitor their performance (Asian Disaster Preparedness Center,2013).The most common elements of community involvement are partnership, participation, empowerment and ownership by the local people. Unless the disaster management efforts are sustainable at individual and community level, it is difficult to reduce the losses and scale of the tragedy. The objectives of this paper are: 1) to discuss the emerging needs of survivors during the various phases of the post-disaster situation; 2) to emphasize the need for designing interventions incorporating the principles of sustainability and community empowerment and; 3) to focus our attention toward management of disasters technologies and disaster preparedness programs that foster the resilience.The utility of the empowerment approach in addressing the socio-economic conditions of local communities and the active involvement of disaster-affected people in the pre- and post-disaster initiatives is argued as a requisite to deal with disasters in a more effective and efficient way. Keywords Empowerment, Sustainability, Disaster Risk Management, Andaman & Nicobar Islands Introduction According to the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (2013) annual disaster statistics review, 357 natural disasters occurred worldwide in the year 2012, which was less than the average natural disaster frequency from 2002 to 2011(394). 9,655 people were killed in 2012 by natural disasters and 124.5 million people were affected globally. Hydro-meteorological disasters accounted for 74% (US$2.6 trillion) of total reported losses, 87% (18,200) of total disaster events, and 61% (1.4 million) of total lives lost. From 1980 to 2012, disaster-related losses amounted to US$3,800 billion worldwide. Some 87% of these reported disasters (18,200 events), 74% of losses (US$2,800 billion (Munich Re 2013). The economic damages from natural disasters in 2012 were estimated at US$ 157 billion. Disaster management, which involves prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and rehabilitation efforts, has been discussed for a long time. In short, such management stages can be classified into before, during and after event activities. Disaster preparedness can be referred to as all measures taken to prepare in advance, aiming at reducing the impact of possible disasters (R. Osti and K. Miyake, 2013). Disasters, Communities and Empowerment: Disaster risk is on the rise throughout the world. Over the past two to three decades, the economic losses and the number of people who have been affected by natural disasters have increased more rapidly than both economic and population growth. The physical, social and economic losses caused by these disasters are particularly harsh for developing countries since they have a long-range effect in the development process. The impacts of the disasters are deeply related with the socio-economic conditions, traditions, cultures, and climates of communities. The most common elements of community involvement are partnership, participation, empowerment and ownership by the local people. The emphasis of disaster management efforts should focus on communities and the people who live in them. Unless the disaster management efforts are sustainable at individual and community level, it is difficult to reduce the losses and scale of the tragedy. Opportunities are needed where people can be involved from the initial programming stage of disaster management activities. The significance of community–based activities where people participate alongside government officials and experts group, as the direct stakeholders of these activities, is imperative. While people should own the problems, consequences and challenges of any mitigation and/or ISSN: 2332-6840 (Online) 2332-6832 (Print) Copyright © 2014 Horizon Research Publishing
  • 2. Rajeev. M.M Horizon Research Publishing preparedness initiative, it is also necessary to take people’s involvement further, into policy and strategy. This process induces a sense of ownership for people and can result in their continuous engagement and long-term commitment to these activities. Involvement of communities is important in both pre-disaster mitigation and post-disaster response and recovery processes. Major benefits of the community based risk assessment, mitigation planning and implementation processes include building confidence, pride in being able to make a difference, and enhanced capabilities to pursue disaster preparedness and mitigation. Additionally, individual and community ownership, commitment and concerted actions in disaster mitigation, including resource mobilization, produce a wide range of appropriate, innovative and do-able mitigation solutions, which are cost-effective and sustainable. The most common elements of community involvement are partnership, participation, empowerment and ownership by the local people. Unless disaster management efforts are sustainable at individual and community levels, it is difficult to reduce the losses and scale of the tragedy (UNCRD, 2004). This paper highlights the various needs and concerns of disaster-affected people in each phase of the disaster, especially in the post disaster context. The empowerment of the community will be attained only through sustainable planning and supportive activities. Needs assessment, analyzing, priority fixation, and implementations all need to be considered in a post-disaster situation. Policy level changes, adherence and stakeholder participation in the total disaster management function are imperative and meaningful. The following brief literature review explains the empowerment and sustainability concept in disaster management and presents concrete steps to be taken to ensure effective disaster management. Review of Literature Effective community participation is an educational and empowering process whereby communities identify the problems and needs and assume responsibility to plan, manage, control and assess the collective action that are necessary. While disasters can strike a region or a nation, their impacts can be felt at the community level. It is these communities that constitute what is referred to as “disaster fronts”. Being at the forefront, communities need to have the capacity to respond to threats themselves. It is for this reason that communities should be involved in managing the risks that may threaten their well-being. While different community empowerment programmes related to disaster mitigation have achieved their objectives, they are often short-term, and issues of sustainability in these efforts are rarely addressed. Government, non-government and international organizations implement various programmes before and after the disasters. Most of them are very successful during the project period, but gradually diminish as the years pass. There are many reasons for this kind of phenomena, however, lack of effective participation and capacity building of the local communities to peruse programs remains a major factor for lack of sustainability. In the past, top decisions came from higher authorities based on their perception of the needs. The communities serve as mere “victims” or receivers of aid. In practice though, this approach was proven to be ineffective. It fails to meet the appropriate and vital humanitarian needs. Moreover, it increases requirements for unnecessary external resources and creates general dissatisfaction over performance, despite exceptional management measures. This is due to the fact that the community, as the primary stakeholder and recipient of the direct impact of disasters was involved in the implementation of activities. On the other hand, communities, if left alone, have limited resources to fully cope with disasters. In many developing and underdeveloped countries, those who suffer the most are the poor, who, in the first place, have limited survival resources and do not enjoy adequate infrastructure and access to social services. It is also significant to say something about Sustainability in Community Based Disaster Management. Sustainability can be thought of either as a fundamental system property, or as a long term, probably unattainable, social goal, and sustainable development as the immediate policy agenda attending that goal. Societies looking for sustainable development are characterized as being resilient, responding in an organized manner and recovering more efficiently from a disaster. Incorporating risk management into the planning process, both for the sectors as much as local authorities, allows those countries with public policies orientated towards development and growth to have a better chance of success than those which do not take them into account (Toro Joaquin, 2014). In the Year 2002, UNCRD launched a three-year project titled “Sustainability in Community Based Disaster Management”, to study the effectiveness of grass-root projects and to suggest policy input for sustainability (which would be useful for the different communities to take future actions). This was to help to understand the gaps in community initiatives, and to take corrective action in future. The study would be an evaluation of what has been done so far in Community Based Disaster Management, with specific examples from field experiences, and what should be done in future for the sustainability of these efforts. In this study, the inter-linkages of government, non-government, academics, and international organizations should be reflected in terms of concrete projects and initiatives, and a model of cooperation would be established (Rajib Shaw & Kenji Okazaki, (2002). Sustainability means recognizing and making best use of the interconnection between social, economic and environmental goals to reduce significant hazard risks. This entails the ability to reduce one’s exposure to, and recover from, infrequent large-scale, but also frequent smaller scale, natural and human driven events. The bottom line for any country, especially the poorest, is to build sustainable communities thriving from generation to generation, with a
  • 3. International Journal of Social Work and Human Services Practice 209 Vol.2. No.6 Dec, 2014, pp. 207-212 social foundation that provides for health, respects cultural diversity and considers the needs of future generations. They require a healthy and diverse ecological system that is life-sustaining and productive, with a healthy and diverse economy that adapts to change and recognizes social and ecological limits. The author explains the emerging needs of survivors during the various phases of the post-disaster situation. Many of the relief agencies were keen to address the immediate physical or mental health needs and not the long-term and changing needs of the survivors. This myopic view of the needs of disaster victims may result in lopsided disaster interventions which can have detrimental effects on vulnerable groups, especially the powerless, relocated, poor, elderly, women, and children. Moreover, in this paradigm, concerns regarding employment, sustainable livelihood, rebuilding the social institutions, and capacity building to weather future threats, arise much later. Hence, a comprehensive disaster needs assessment is essential in any disaster situation and must include the following components: (a) it must be on-going and capture the emerging needs of the survivors; (b) must assess the psychological consequences of the disaster, especially on vulnerable groups; (c) must include a framework to assess the economic and social impact of the disaster; and (d) must examine the various vulnerabilities of the community that put them at risk for future threats. The post-tsunami period in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands offered an opportunity to restore affected housing and living conditions of the large number of people whose homes were destroyed or badly damaged. Such a process of restoration of people’s lives needed to take place, keeping in mind basic human rights principles of gender equality, nondiscrimination and participation. The feedback which the author collected from various stakeholders, especially disaster survivors from Bambooflat, Tushnabad, Vandoor and other parts of the South Andaman, points out in detail the inadequacy of response from the authorities. Secondly, it is inevitable to emphasize the need for designing interventions incorporating the principles of sustainability and community empowerment. Fulfilling long term needs of the survivors of disaster, community driven approaches and interventions are required. The active involvement of an affected community in each phase of disaster management operations is a great pressing need. That engagement will be helpful in a successful and sustainable emergency management initiative and, thereby, ensure the resilience and coping of community members and the overall empowerment of the community. Management of Disasters: Focusing the Crucial Linkages The best learning from all disasters in the past is imperative to change our attention towards a more proactive way of managing disasters using cutting edge technologies and disaster preparedness programs that foster the resilience of people prone to hazards. Why should we have Community-based disaster Preparedness? Community is the first to suffer and the first real-time responder in any disaster • It is the ultimate target of any disaster preparedness and mitigation plans • It provides a reservoir of time tested indigenous knowledge of coping mechanisms • It has the most authentic local knowledge on risks and vulnerabilities • Community prepares vulnerability and risk maps by ‘default’ and those plans are connected with their daily lives and livelihoods • Community is the best assessor of disaster damages • It can also be the best evaluator of disaster recovery • It will assume ownership of plans and programmes • It facilitates social mobilisation that empowers community. • It facilitates easier identification of vulnerable groups. (Dasgupta, 2011). While everyone living in disaster-prone areas is vulnerable, some groups such as children, the elderly, and people with disabilities are more vulnerable than others. Therefore, the needs of vulnerable groups should be addressed specifically in preparedness and relief operations. In Sri Lanka, district committees and NGOs have prepared lists of the elderly and disabled people in their areas, and some NGOs have formed groups of volunteers who are responsible for caring for the elderly during emergencies. The Department of Meteorology is conducting several programs to improve disaster preparedness in coastal schools from Panadura to Hambantota (BEDROC, 2006). These programs teach children how to identify evacuation routes and prepare for disasters. Children then share this information with their families (Oxfam Field Studies, 2006). A study jointly conducted by Oxfam International and Bedrock (2006) on communities' perceptions of disasters, aid their own response capacity. While occurrence of these natural disasters cannot be prevented altogether, their adverse impact can be reduced substantially by undertaking various preparedness and mitigation measures by community involvement. Minimizing the loss of precious human life is the first priority in disaster management. Significant achievement has been made in the designing of disaster resistant houses and inventing quality building materials to withstand the fury of natural disasters (Kumar, 2008). Disaster Management- Learned Points- Recommendations Capacity Building/ Training Local Youth It is a weathered fact that the local communities’ role in a
  • 4. Rajeev. M.M Horizon Research Publishing disaster situation is crucial in saving lives and other aspects. Therefore, it is essential to train the local youth in basic emergency response, be it paramedical, forming communication links or responding to emergencies. Community Based Disaster Management Plans and mock drills will be undertaken to ensure better preparedness. Efforts will be made to minimize vulnerability of disadvantaged groups like women, children, elders, physically and mentally challenged, and other marginalized groups. Aspects of reducing/minimizing the long-term impacts of various disasters on these vulnerable sections will be an integral part of the strategic plan. Linking Traditional Knowledge & Technology Disaster management authorities need to ensure that early warning systems (to be used in disaster prone areas) and the dissemination of warning and plans for risk avoidance actions are people-centered (i.e., they are tailored for local use and they incorporate the traditional knowledge of the local communities with regard to coping with natural disasters). The disaster management apparatus needs to catch early warnings from the disaster-prone areas and take prompt action subsequently. Other important recommendations are: the development of effective communication systems in the country; public awareness and education campaigns on disaster management; the application of latest technology for disaster preparedness (e.g., Geographic Information System, Remote Sensing, Communication Satellites, etcetera.); and the promotion of risk transfer options like insurance. Role of Public Health Institutions The Government must take strong initiatives for expanding the network of public healthcare institutions, especially in the rural areas, improving their manpower and infrastructure and giving proper guidelines regarding their role in the wake of a disaster. In post-disaster some of the agencies expressed similar kinds of suggestions on various platforms. In Tamilnadu and Kerala many of the leading international agencies, including UN bodies, were keen on teaching the community or specific targeted groups to understand and practice various technologies in connection with the disaster preparedness programme. In Kerala where health systems are comparatively well established compared to other States, it would be possible to integrate disaster management programmes through Primary Health Centres and Community Health Centres. The changes should come within the self, groups, and in the community itself. Therefore, Government should organize and facilitate such activities in the coming days to ensure people’s participation and coordination in the pre and post-disaster and emergency context. In this context, it is very important to strengthen the primary healthcare institutions, which must be accessible to a widely divergent population. Healthcare institutions at different levels – primary, secondary, and tertiary – should be given well-defined and mutually supportive roles vis-à-vis disaster management. At the village level, emergency healthcare providers, with proper training in life-saving skills, need to be deployed so that they can provide essential services to local communities during disasters. Decentralizing Disaster Management There should be decentralization of disaster management efforts – in terms of involving the village Panchayats and other local bodies in both planning and implementation of disaster preparedness measures specific to their areas. As we have already noted, the processes of dissemination of warning and risk avoidance action necessarily depend on the active participation of local people in a disaster-prone area. Hence, the Panchayats and other local bodies should have substantial roles to play in these activities. In fact, the planning towards management of natural disasters has to combine both the ‘top down’ approach and the ‘bottom up’ approach. Among the various measures for disaster mitigation mentioned above there is the need to:, ensure that development plans incorporate disaster mitigation norms; catch early warnings; predict natural disasters in time, issue warnings from the disaster management authorities; ensure the availability of necessary hardware (such as, search and rescue equipment, high wind-proof radio masts, emergency communication infrastructure, etcetera); have an emergency response plan; activate the emergency response plan promptly during a disaster; and provide comprehensive as well as effective relief and rehabilitation to the people affected. These actions could be undertaken with a top down planning approach. However, several important activities also need to be undertaken, such as: creating awareness among people; promotion of disaster mitigation and preparedness measures among the local communities; dissemination of warning among people in the affected areas; evacuation of people to safer places in the event of a disaster; and taking precautionary measures in the post-disaster situation (such as against epidemics) all need to be undertaken with a bottom up planning approach. The local self-government bodies must have a major say in the latter. Integrating Disaster Management with Development Planning All aspects of disaster management need to integrate with the normal development planning at all levels. Additionally, relevant departments should earmark a certain portion of the plan budget to undertake preparedness and prevention measures. Disaster risk reduction activities need to strengthen in the country. Preparedness Needs Locally appropriate prevention measures such as bio-shields, sea walls and other measures must be erected to prevent further erosion and disasters; a Disaster
  • 5. International Journal of Social Work and Human Services Practice 211 Vol.2. No.6 Dec, 2014, pp. 207-212 Preparedness Plan must be drawn up for action at various levels and must be part of the Annual Development Plan; there must be Regular Disaster Preparedness Drills at community and institutional levels (Orissa Model) on fixed dates to prepare local communities in disaster preparedness; Government officials must be easily accessible and available on all days (even on holidays) in times of Emergency, as in the days following December 26, 2004. Empowering the Local Community Disasters can be mitigated if local communities and Government are adequately equipped to handle them. While appreciating the overwhelming solidarity with the victims of the Tsunami, the participants asserted that local communities must be made capable to spearhead any relief and rehabilitation operation in the wake of a disaster in a participatory manner. What is needed is the creation of “hazard-resilient bio-regional communities” (T.Karunakaran,2006) with emergency reshuffle plans handled by fully-equipped and well-prepared Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Committees of village clusters. He also said that it is not out of place for each Panchayat Raj to create some kind of emergency corpus funds so that people can have immediate access to relief. This would enhance their self-esteem and make them proactive in times of disaster. In addition, identifying the immediate needs to combat any further deterioration in disaster management and effective reconstruction, such as the installation of early warning systems; streamlining of relief distribution systems; launching public awareness campaigns; and issuing guidelines to relief workers all aid in effective disaster management. Disaster Management in Educational Curriculum To inculcate a culture of preparedness and prevention, disaster management will be incorporated in the education system and curricula at all levels. The students should be exposed to mock drills to develop requisite intuitive skills. Crucial Community Participation The Government will actively promote, through its own agencies, NGOs and other stakeholders, active community participation in risk assessment, vulnerability analysis, mitigation, planning and implementation of response and rehabilitation activities. Since the communities face the brunt of any hazard, strengthening their coping mechanism will receive the highest priority. Revision and Updating of the Policy The government should revise and update the disaster and emergency related policies as and when required. Conclusion In brief, it is evident that disaster management is not a stand-alone activity. A well-structured people-centric, coordinated and integrated effort is the need, of the hour, to deal with disaster and emergency situations in the country. The work should start from the bottom to the top: the community should take up the ownership of the activity. The community can act immediately in a cohesive and efficient manner, when they are well trained with their boosted and they recognized. The role of local self-government in managing natural disasters is of paramount importance and effective, technical and practical oriented capacity development exercises need to be provided to the Panchayathi Raj Institutions throughout the country, as India is considered the “theatre of disasters”. Undoubtedly, we can say that team effort, with the “effective” participation of government and community, can make a difference to disaster management programmes. Effective management is possible only if a comprehensive plan and implementation mechanism programmes are chartered out. The post-tsunami scenario gives us a grave lesson to learn concerning the do’s and don’ts that should be practiced giving insight into activities that need to be employed; the role and responsibilities of each and every person who are directly or indirectly affected by the disaster; and so on. Such a study, analysis and implementation could help contribute in reducing or eliminating the consequences arising in the wake of a disaster or any kind of emergency which shakes the entire fabric of a community or the lives of the people. The linkage between urban growth, climate change adaptation, and sustainable development should be self-evident. Measures to manage urban growth and adaptation to climate change will need to be integrated into strategies for poverty reduction to ensure sustainable development. The land management perspective and the role of the operational component of land administration systems, therefore, needs high-level political support and recognition. 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