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17. Participatory Planning and Technology Uptake

One of the salient points of GTZ’s experience with supporting local disaster prevention initiatives is that these should be part of a participatory planning process linked to awareness raising or training activities and a preliminary risk analysis (see Diagramme 1 in Section 7 above). The latter, together with a common conceptual and informational basis, is necessary since the causes of disaster risk and the possibilities of mitigating it are for the most part unknown. Writing on North-East China, Yongong et al. (1999) find what is presumably a typical situation in many countries in that “the creation and institutionalization of a coordinated risk management planning mechanism at decentralized level will require substantive efforts in terms of designing and launching comprehensive, demand driven capacity building and training strategies at the county at sub-county levels, addressing township governors and village leaders, production team leaders and herder's group representatives” (p17). Local capacity thus remains one of the Achilles heels of participatory DRM (see also Section 21.3 below).

In Orissa (India), for example, the participatory planning process in post-disaster situations is facilitated by a recently established specialised public sector agency, OSDMA (see Section 17 below). Following the frustration among NGOs due to the absence of any institutional mechanism for regular consultation between the government and civil society organisations in the aftermath of the 1999 cyclone, OSDMA set up a NGO Coordination Cell. It appointed a Secretary in charge of “guiding” NGOs, researchers, and volunteers coming from outside the state, and of acting as a facilitator along the interface between NGOs and government departments. The process proved invaluable, and, other than serving as a vehicle for participatory planning, prepared the ground for institutionalised GO-NGO coordination for disaster preparedness and response through OSDMA. Once the general principles were agreed upon, NGOs were then given considerable leeway to adopt the most suitable participatory methodologies to plan their activities or the activities for which responsibility had been assigned to them.

A positive consequence of the relief and rehabilitation phases after the Orissa cyclone, at least as far as discernible until present, has been a progressive change in technology. New designs and construction methods for housing have evolved to provide more protection, often including roof rainwater harvesting technology. Irrigation of land has expanded and the control of irrigation has started to shift from the state to communities as responsibilities have been devolved. Tractors and power tillers have been used to replace some of the draught animals that were lost; seed banks have been established, cyclone shelters built, forest breaks planted, and new varieties of plants have entered the farming cycles. Clearly, although this natural disaster has led to much distress and suffering, it has also presented development practitioners with an opportunity to “do things differently”, and improved technologies could be introduced.

17.1 The Role of Technical Assistance: Community Hazard and Vulnerability Mapping

Jaringan Kerja Pemetaan Partisipatif (JKPP) is a network of 33 non-government and community organisations from all over Indonesia. It was formed with the aim of “accelerating the recognition of customary community rights in managing local natural resources in Indonesia through the development of community mapping concepts, methodologies, and strategies”. It is working towards the formation of a ‘Traditional Community Mapping Network’ with a broad cross-section of stakeholders.

The network has the following working groups: a policy group reviews spatial planning policies and provides technical consultation and assistance to JKPP participants who are dealing with policy issues. It will develop policy options to support community mapping and a draft regulation on mapping systems to be submitted to the Ministry of Environment. The methodology group focuses on improving mapping and planning techniques, designing and implementing training of trainers for participatory mapping, and producing an improved Participatory Mapping Manual. It also provides trainers and resource people for technical assistance to JKPP participants. The Secretariat serves as a networking hub and service centre for mapping information, collecting and disseminating information on participatory mapping through a quarterly newsletter, ‘Kabar’, to members of JKPP and other groups, and publishes a number of books.

Under a nation-wide project on “Reforming the Spatial Planning Policy in Indonesia through the Incorporation of Community Maps”, training included class sessions, field-, and deskwork, along with an introduction on spatial use, remote sensing and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Participants were introduced to basic principles of databases, spatial analysis, remote sensing, computer-based cartography and the operation of GIS software programmes. The second training aimed at developing several GIS ‘resource pools’ in West Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, North Sulawesi, Maluku and Irian Jaya, that would be able to supply on-going support to community mapping groups and village-based information systems. The training also supported the development of communication and information protocols being developed by Pro-BELA and Telapak for Forest Watch Indonesia. Part of the training was to show how to involve senior members from partner NGOs in using GIS for decision-making.

JKPP helped prepare for the first ever nation-wide congress on indigenous adat community institutions (Kongres Masyarakat Adat Nusantara). The congress was organised by a number of NGO networks and held in March 1999 to develop common positions to win back the rights of traditional communities to land, sea and natural resources. They had numerous discussions in small groups and plenaries, and with the press, which were followed by a series of sessions with government representatives, a delegation to the House of Representatives and to the National Commission on Human Rights. JKPP and other NGO networks are now preparing post-congress workshops in each region. The objective is to promote the existence and importance of the Alliance of Adat Communities (AMAN) to members of adat communities throughout Indonesia.

17.2 Communication and Information Dissemination Technology

Since many monitoring systems and emergency relief forecasting systems tend to perform relatively poorly, revolutionary communication and information dissemination technology such as the Grameen Phone and Grameen Phone Sewa (see the box in this Section) services in India can do much to improve the speed and quality of responses to natural disasters.

Communication and information dissemination technology are key for ensuring that households respond adequately to disaster risk by being able to take informed decisions; it is even more crucial for co-ordination. Thus, “the reduction of vulnerability, as well as the capacity to respond to disasters is directly related to the degree of decentralized access to information, communication and decision-making and the control of resources” (Habitat 1996). In addition to being expensive, the distribution of important risk avoidance information to village level by means of official documents is however often hindered by low levels of literacy in rural areas. A EU Livestock Development Project in China broadened the accessibility of written information by developing herders' technical brochures in local (Tibetan) language and distributing these to herder's households. As experience in Mozambique and Peru demonstrates, communities at risk must trust those delivering the warnings - especially if they involve having to move away or the possibility of temporary or even permanent resettlement.

A generally more viable alternative for conveying DRM information may be using the rural radio, which in certain countries is well developed as coverage and ownership of or access to radio sets have been increasing (including, according to Yongong et al. (1999), in North-West China, where almost 100% of herder households have them). During the 1999 cyclone in Orissa state, India, warnings were given on ‘All India Radio’ but some of the meteorological terminology used, meant little to the less educated of the poor for whom cyclones were a regular, but generally not a critical, occurrence. The Revenue Department passed the message as widely as possible but many people had nowhere to go to get away from the hazard or were afraid to leave their possessions behind (IMM n.d.).

17.2.1 Escotel Grameen Phone Sewa...

...aims at providing cellular telephone connectivity to the rural masses in India, and has been inspired by the success of Grameen Phone. It is generating an overwhelming response as over 450 villages in the States of Uttar Pradesh (West) and Haryana are already being covered by this service. Building on its vision of a socially responsible corporate, the service is provided at highly subsidised rates for both handsets and airtime charges. The initial package of handset and connection is subsidised by 30 per cent and the airtime rate by 50 per cent. The operator charges a margin of Rs.3 to Rs.5 per call on the actual cost of the call. Each local entrepreneur owns and operates a cellular phone that typically serves an entire village plus surrounding kesbas. Each village phone caters to the needs of an average of 5,000 people around the village. This means that Grameen Phone Sewa is already providing access to 2.25 million people in the rural areas and is expected to benefit many more in the future.

Key Features:

  • Provides mobile telephony in remote villages.

  • Availability to rural people who normally cannot afford to have a personal connection.

  • Subsidised connection.

  • Handset & connection subsidized by Escotel to the tune of 30%.

  • Escotel subsidises airtime by 50%.

  • Income generating tool for Operators.

Benefits to the Villagers:

  • Substitutes a trip to neighbouring towns which is more time consuming and costly.

  • Better rates for their produce.

  • Be in touch with family members working anywhere in India or elsewhere in the world.

  • Can obtain urgent medical help.

  • Tremendous economic and social impact.

  • Local government administration can stay in instant touch with remote and isolated areas.

Following the Orissa cyclone, a website was set up to coordinate the activities of all stakeholders and to recruit volunteer relief workers. The initiative is part of the India Disaster Resource Network (IDRN) of the nationwide Disaster Risk Management Programme, a joint initiative by the Government of India and UNDP that aims to reduce the vulnerability of communities in 169 districts in 17 States most at risk. When cyclones, earthquakes or other calamities next strike, district officials in many of the affected areas can go online and quickly mobilise support for evacuation, search and rescue, medical aid and other relief priorities.

However, given low levels of internet connectivity particularly in the more remote rural areas elsewhere in the world, it is in most cases not yet possible to reach disaster-affected households resident there through this highly cost-effective communication and information dissemination technology. Modern communications may also, unfortunately, play a negative role in that mass media coverage of natural disasters is frequently sensationalist, disinformative and biased by political vested interests seeking to downplay the role of human agency in catalysing such events. As a crucial means for fundraising and mobilising donor support, media coverage is also of strategic significance and susceptible to interference.

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