Amrapur, Bhalchel and Virpur, three villages in the coastal region in southern Gujarat, have been a part of Aga Khan Agency for Habitat India’s (AKAH India’s) community-based disaster risk reduction (CBDRR) programme this past year. Over the course of the year, AKAH India has conducted Disaster Awareness Programmes (DAPs), formed Village Disaster Committees (VDCs) in each village, trained a Community Emergency Response Team in each village, and conducted community-led Hazard, Vulnerability and Risk Assessments (HVRAs). All of these put together have resulted in comprehensive Village Disaster Management Plans (VDMPs) for each village.
Alinawaz Nanjee, AKAH India’s CBDRR leader, explains how the process worked. “We approached the Panchayat (village government) in each village and with their approval carried out a Disaster Awareness Programme for the whole village. Then we formed a ten-member Village Disaster Committee in each village that included panchayat members and citizens representing all castes and major stakeholders including the elderly, women and youth. This committee oversaw the HVRA and selected members for the CERT team from amongst the able-bodied youth, men and women aged eighteen to forty, chosen from all castes and geographical locations in the village giving preference to those who lived in areas most vulnerable to disasters.”
Alinawaz says that he was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic participation of the villagers in both the HVRA mapping exercise and the CERT training. “In the HVRA exercise in Amrapur, the panchayat members listened closely to the VDC and the citizens creating the village map of resources and hazards. They can use the map to better plan future developments in their village.” He noted that at one of the recent meetings held regarding the VDMP in Virpur, CERT members shared how they had told their families about various fire safety and first aid measures that they had learned in the training. “Fires and snakebites are the major everyday hazards here, apart from the earthquakes and cyclones that occur periodically,” Alinawaz notes. “Accordingly, our training focused on recognizing and fighting different types of fires and on proper first aid measures for fires and snakebites. We dispelled a lot of snakebite myths in our training and awareness programmes.”
The CBDRR team conducted another Disaster Awareness Programme in September, this time focused on schools. “We approached government schools in all three villages, reasoning that making children aware would impact the larger community, as well,” says Alinawaz. The team screened animated films on disaster awareness about earthquakes and floods, conducted a drawing competition for schoolchildren on the theme of disaster management, and also did ShakeOut (earthquake) drills in all schools. Alinawaz notes, “The students participated enthusiastically and are planning to hold a rally in each village to make the community around the school more aware of disaster preparedness. They were happy to have an activity that taught them something useful outside the school curriculum.”
The VDMPs (Village Disaster Management Plans) for all three villages are ready and awaiting approval from the village local governments. With those in place and with a communities prepared for disasters, citizens of Amrapur, Bhalchel and Virpur can rest easier.