Monthly Archives: March 2015

Urban floods in Assam

The northeastern region in India holds a unique feature of multiple ethnicities, identities layered with historical and political neglect. In the recent years Guwahati has witnessed a complex array of recurring floods, political unrest due to separatist movements and ethnic conflicts, illegal immigration and environmental risks of hydro-infrastructural projects in Assam. This presentation traces parallel threads to understand the conglomeration of factors that have resulted in influx of populations in the cities from the rural fringes and peripheries of the river Brahmaputra as well as in areas that have faced ethnic violence and tension. It presents data on artificial floods in Guwahati, the political history of the region through interplay of the various central-state actors, the incidences of violence clashes and state response to such events. The data shows that the perceived threat and violence in the region has led to mistrust, displacement of populations from their original homes, loss of livelihoods and access to basic facilities resulting in out-migration and poor living conditions in the city. However even in urban conditions, the lack of systems resilience has not guaranteed a better lifestyle or standards due to lack of power and water supply, health and education facilities. Therefore the constant pull and push factors in migration are defining the population movements that are manifested due to resilience of the system – the city as an interconnected unit in contrast to the rural independence and standards of living.

More to follow..

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Rethinking resilience over email exchanges

Today I was browsing my email history, and came across this from a senior practitioner from India who asked me the academician’s take on IFRC definition of resilience, as the ability of individuals, communities, organisations, or countries exposed to disasters and crises and underlying vulnerabilities to – anticipate, – reduce impact of – cope with and – recover from the effects of adversity without compromising their long-term impacts.
I responded by saying:
There are two things that come to mind when we talk of resilience, and then many more nuances of the debates
open up. Firstly, some view resilience as ‘resistance’ where the idea is that any system or unit will retain its original characteristics when faced with shock so minimum or least damage is caused. like a rubber. This is from engineering or mechanics and physics school of thought. While an alternate thought is that a system will adapt n evolve and re organise when faced with disaster or any shock. this is ecological or geography perspective.
However in social systems, the resilience definitions understand that there is a capacity to adapt and recover from disasters and retain normal functioning. the concept of “bringing back to previous state of functioning ” or bounce back means that one recreates the conditions which led to disaster in first place, but still disaster provides with a window of opportunity to make a change- political conditions. practices. community capacities etc.
Finally resilience I have began to realise is very abstract. To operationalise, it’s challenging because everyone works as DRR or development or conflict resolution or humanitarian or clim change adaptation etc. to break through these barriers there is opportunity., but it also puts a value to certain conditions. for ex poverty has sustained for so long, so maybe poor and marginalised who live in poor conditions are still surviving because they have become resilient. Also if there are power imbalances then those who suffer inequality will have less support systems to adapt and become resilient.
Today I find value in above definitions, on concepts of recovery because resilience incorporates that factor of recovering from disasters. Therefore I think holistic recovery from disasters has more potential to build resilient communities as it loops back to the cycle of preparedness, mitigation and prevention of disasters
Any thoughts on this are welcome

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