Rebuilding with resilient infrastructure and community engagement


Transitional shelters have proven to be cost effective over time if implemented correctly

Building resilience to climate hazards is an urgent target of Goal 13 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mandated by the United Nations.

Storing emergency supplies or preparing a family evacuation plan can dramatically reduce loss and damage from natural hazards. However, the level of household preparedness is often low, even in disaster-prone areas.

Studies have shown that human suffering and other damage does not end with the event itself. Therefore, it is necessary to focus on the complex process of recovery and reconstruction in the months and years following a disaster.

In the midst of the pandemic

Cyclone Amphan, which caused massive destruction in West Bengal and adjacent areas, rapidly escalated on May 17, 2020 to become a Category 5 “ super cyclonic storm ”. However, it weakened in category 3 before making landfall on May 20.

The devastating cyclone came at a time when people were grappling with an increase in cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Lockdowns and travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic complicated the response and evacuation process during the disaster.

The challenge was to protect vulnerable people in emergency shelters from Cyclone Amphan and COVID-19. Most of them thirsted for their basic rights to food, shelter and clothing.

The implementation of a program to rebuild shelters and toilets is an immediate need to enable them to survive.

The process of building resilience requires systematic methods that can be implemented through community interactions to understand the context of their living conditions. Awareness campaigns to understand the purpose of each individual and sane living facility, such as green shelters and toilets, can facilitate a return to normalcy.

Long-term solutions for temporary shelters

Transitional shelters, built for survivors of natural disasters, are unable to withstand intensifying calamities and advanced construction technologies have yet to penetrate the population living in extreme poverty in West Bengal.

Over the years, the use of concrete materials and better technologies in transitional shelters has made these homes more resistant to cyclones. The concept, however, takes time to gain wide acceptance.

Adapting “transitional shelters” can provide important insight into cyclone preparedness and resilience and can help develop a community-based approach to disaster management.

Transition shelter, being a step-by-step process rather than a multi-step approach, must be accepted. These rapid disaster shelters are made from materials that can be upgraded or reused in more permanent structures, or can be moved from temporary sites to permanent ones.

Transitional shelters have proven to be cost effective over time if implemented correctly and provide good opportunities for scaling up using common, local and regional materials. Building transitional shelters comes with meaningful engagement with affected communities / individuals. This ensures that the design and implementation are context-specific and that the needs of marginalized and vulnerable groups are taken into account.

However, knowledge of good safe building practices is instilled so that houses incorporate disaster risk reduction measures. Efforts to permanently rebuild housing should not be reduced to pressure. The integration of other sectors or issues such as livelihoods, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and transport, is important for the success of the transition.

There are several ways to strengthen the resilience of infrastructure. The dangers can be partially addressed through the widespread deployment of green infrastructure, while preventing the development of gray infrastructure.

Energy resilience can be improved through the development of distributed renewable energy such as rooftop solar installations. The main need is to avoid water pollution.

The practice of installing toilets right next to ponds can be replaced by ecological sanitary toilets. Manure collected in these units can also help the local community with irrigation.

Community engagement for effective recovery

The implementation of shelter rehabilitation programs is complex and often subject to significant competing interests and obstacles. The needs of women, girls, men and boys and those of different households can vary widely.

A one-size-fits-all shelter design has limited flexibility to meet these needs. Governments and non-governmental organizations should significantly strengthen their approaches to community engagement in shelter projects, with the aim of improving community ownership of projects and individual ownership of shelters.

Future programs should aim to empower people to take charge of the recovery of their shelters, including giving them meaningful control and choices over the design and construction of shelters, leading to better overall outcomes. .

To do this, it is necessary to develop a common understanding of the different risks faced by people affected by a disaster and to ensure that they have the knowledge to make choices about those risks. This will require strong community engagement and technical support capacity.

Any future climate adaptation strategy must take into account the material needs of the most vulnerable communities, prioritizing the construction of a social safety net that will allow them to resume their livelihoods and continue to live in the environment. dignity.

In addition, among the various stakeholders who build and carry community resilience are government, grassroots organizations and volunteer networks. These stakeholders are those who understand the local community and show solidarity in times of need, as disasters around the world have repeatedly demonstrated.

Yezdani Rahman is the Head of Programs, Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS).

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Down to earth.

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