In Unit #95 (Photo: Martje van der Heide)
“This is unit number 95”, Preeti told me. “It is the standard model.” Geeta Devi the owner shook her head. “Look up”, she said, “This is our house.” I looked up and saw what she meant: there was a beautiful lotus flower design in the ceiling. “My husband made it” Geeta said proudly. “This is our house”.
The tireless Preeti works with village communities to help them build back better (Photo: Martje van der Heide)
Preeti Bisht is the community worker for SUDHA who is mobilizing the victims of the Uttarakhand floods in this small village on the Mandakini River, well on the way to Kedarnath. She took me all the way to unit number 107 and in passing showed me the school. I soon discovered that none of the house units were standard. Some people added a room, others an extra window in the kitchen to show the amazing view up river. And the houses that were already finished were painted in every color imaginable as houses in Uttarakhand are meant to be.
Losses due to disasters to human and physical capital are on the rise across the world. Over the past 30 years, total losses have tripled, amounting to $3.5 trillion. While the majority of these losses were experienced in OECD countries, the trend is increasingly moving towards losses in rapidly growing states.
In a sense, increasing risk and losses caused by disaster are the byproduct of a positive trend - strong development gains and economic growth. This is because disaster loss is a function of the amount of human and physical assets exposed to seismic or hydrometeorological hazards, and the level of vulnerability of the assets. The richer a country gets, the more assets it builds or acquires, and therefore the more losses it potentially faces.
Rapid development across South Asia signals the need to commit greater efforts to increase resilience to disaster and climate risk. It also requires governments to develop a strategy to both protect against events today and to develop strategies to address the losses of the future. This is a challenge somewhat unique to South Asia. The losses of today, predominantly rural flooding that impacts wide swaths of vulnerable populations, will begin to diminish in relative importance to the losses of the future.
|Speaking with colleague Ahsan Tehsin, who worked on the Bank's damage and needs assessment for Pakistan.|
I have always had a desire to work in a developing country and have felt a pull towards Pakistan due to my heritage. So after two exciting years in Washington DC, I came across an opportunity to work in the Islamabad office; I went for it.
Within days of accepting the position -to work for the Multi-Donor Trust Fund supporting the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Federally-Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan regions- I was in Islamabad. I had lived in the country for years when I was younger. With family and my fluency in Urdu, this was a homecoming of sorts, but a bittersweet one.
Each day on my way to work I am welcomed by the many checkpoints placed every few kilometers with law enforcement inspecting every vehicle with caution and professionalism (two qualities I once thought they were incapable of possessing!). I encounter at least seven checkpoints. The security situation has deteriorated to such an extent that these barriers to the flow of traffic - and in the mornings, to the flow of thought – bring calm to an otherwise chaotic world.