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Disasters

Emergency response in the Whatsapp era!

Deepak Malik's picture
Cyclone Hudhud.  Photo Credit: NASA Earth Observatory
On October 12, 2014, Cyclone Hudhud, a category 4 cyclone with wind speeds exceeding 220 km/hour bore down on to the city of Vishakhapatnam in the state of Andhra Pradesh on the eastern coast of India. The city, with a population of over 1.8 million people and neighboring districts suffered massive devastation. The World Bank’s South Asia Disaster Risk Management team jointly undertook a post-disaster damage and needs assessment with a team from the Asian Development Bank and with the Government of Andhra Pradesh with the support of Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).

 
Whatsapp Messages
Whatsapp to help restore connectivity. 
During field visits, the assessment team interacted extensively with the community and local government officials.  The one story that seemed to resonate consistently was the efficiency in clearing roads blocked by fallen trees and debris to make sure connectivity was restored at the earliest. Following any major disaster, such as cyclone Hudhud, restoring connectivity is amongst the most challenging and critical activities. Restoring connectivity allows for more efficient flow of much-needed emergency relief, medical supplies and helps foster early recovery. We decided to dig deeper to find out what had been done differently here.
 
One evening, while returning from a field visit to Srikakulam district, we posed this question to Mr. V. Ramachandra, Superintendent Engineer of Public Works Department (PWD), what had been done differently. Mr. V. Ramachandra’s face lit up and he pulled out his smart phone. He showed us a “closed group” that the PWD engineers had created on Whatsapp.  For the first three days after cyclone Hudhud, there was no electricity and no mobile connectivity. As the connections were restored, the PWD closed group became functional and that acted as the main tool of communication for information sharing. For any breach of road, the Engineers shared information through the Whatsapp group with a clear location and a short explanation of the problem. The person responsible for the area responded with a message stating how long it would take to clear the block. Even requests for tools and JCBs were made on the group. This helped identify and access required resources. The action taken was narrated on the group discussion page once the problem was solved. An updated photo showing restored road connectivity was uploaded to the group.

No meetings and no discussions at the district headquarter level had to be organized. The District Magistrate joined the group and gave instruction to the department through the closed Whatsapp group. Most roads were functional within three to four days. The whole department worked to provide its services through a messaging system, without any meetings and formal orders.

Social media has become a part of our daily lives and is a very powerful tool for emergency management if used properly. Social media and pre-designed apps are effective when written reports and formal meetings are not required. It is important to learn from such experiences and institutionalize them for effective and efficient use during periods of early recovery and emergency response.

Unlocking climate finance for more renewable energy in South Asia

Keisuke Iyadomi's picture
Indian woman cleaning up solar panels in the province of Orissa, India
Indian woman cleaning up solar panels in the province of Odisha, India. 
Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Panos Pictures / Department for International Development

With only 43% of its households with access to electricity, Odisha’s economic development lags behind that of other states in India. However, it is home to rich water reserves, wildlife, forest, minerals, and renewable energy sources, which together can help boost the state’s economy.
 
Let’s take the example of solar energy.
 
In recent years, Odisha and its international partners have set out to boost the development of renewable energy in the state and now aim to identify and scale up potential solar power sites.  
 
Yet, challenges remain.
 
Despite 300 clear sunny days every year representing a huge solar potential (Odisha receives an average solar radiation of 5.5 kWh/ Sq. m area), only 1.29 percent of Odisha’s total energy capacity stems from renewable sources.
 
Considering that Odisha is planning to increase its solar capacity from 31.5 Megawatts (MW) to 2,300 MW in the next five years, the state must step up its efforts and enact relevant policies to meet its solar energy goals. This, in turn, could benefit local businesses and spur economic growth.
 

Rebuilding Nepal with traditional techniques

Nripal Adhikary's picture
Traditional house in Nepal's Central Hills
Traditional house in Nepal's Central Hills. Credit: ABARI

In Dolakha, a Thangmi woman rises early in the morning to mix together a paste of manure and clay. She kneels down on the floor of her broken home and smooths the mixture over the careworn earthen floor in preparation for another day of living in the earthquake’s aftermath. Over the mountains in Sindhupalchowk, a Tamang carpenter has fashioned a sturdy lodge from the stone rubble of his former home.

Serving his guests cups of strong sugary tea, he looks out the carved wooden windows he has built to the terraced fields he can no longer farm. Across the landscape devastated by the earthquake, Nepalis are creating shelters incorporating the architectural and design principles of familiar structures. The vernacular architecture of Nepal’s Central Hills is well adapted to the environment, and to the rhythms of agrarian routines.

An ideal Hill home is one with thick stonewalls, a ground floor kitchen, upper story bedrooms, an attic storage room, a spacious courtyard, veranda, and cozy and clean sheds for livestock.
 

Shrinking ice: A potential meltdown for South Asia

Saurabh Dani's picture
View of flooded Ganges Delta
View of flooded Ganges Delta. Credit: World Bank
In mid-August, close to a 12.5 sq. km of chunk of ice separated from the Jacobshavn glacier in Greenland and tumbled down into the sea. The Jacobshavn is rumored to be the glacier that downed the Titanic. While the event was small compared to the huge ice chunk break-aways in the Antarctic, the spotlight was welcome. A few weeks back, Obama become the first US President to visit the Arctic.
 
Halfway across the globe, in the South Asia region, another ice-snow regime is under threat, and although less scrutinized by the media, has the potential to trigger catastrophic economic and social consequences.
 
The Hindu Kush-Himalayan region is widely called the third pole and in this ice-snow regime of the third pole are the origins of three mighty rivers – Ganges, Brahmaputra and the Indus that indirectly support over 700 million people across South Asia.
 
The ice and snow regime is among the most fragile earth systems that will be impacted massively by a changing climate and the melting and disappearing of the three poles (the Antarctic, Arctic and high-altitude mountain glaciers) will in turn exacerbate sea level rise and extreme weather patterns.
 

Why climate change is an existential threat to the Bangladesh Delta

Lia Sieghart's picture

Bangladesh Delta Series: 3

In the second in this series of blogs, we highlighted the need to introduce adaptive delta management to the Bangladesh delta. The reason—to manage the long-term risks facing the Delta by investing in adaptive and flexible, short-term activities. The most striking need for this approach is climate change, which unchecked will undermine Bangladesh’s many development gains.

In post-earthquake Nepal, open data accountability

Deepa Rai's picture
Nepal Landslide sights by NASA and United States Geographic Survey
This map shows landslide sites. ICIMOD a team led by NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) maps and monitors potential geohazards using satellite data.  
 


One of the first things I did after the earthquake on 25th April was to connect with my family through the internet as phone lines were then not available. Never before had I been so grateful to have internet access. The quakes in April and May claimed more than 9,000 lives and injured thousands. Million others are now homeless. Of the many ways the Nepalese community, international development organizations, and the Government initially supported the most affected, Internet and open data platforms played a major role. As info-hubs they provided updates for those in Nepal and elsewhere in the world and helped monitor post-disaster rescue and relief efforts.

Nepal post-earthquake response: It’s time to roll up our sleeves

Marc Forni's picture
Nepal Earthquake Reconstruction
Relief workers in the town of Sankhu in the Kathmandu Valley, June 2015. Credit: Yann Doignon / World Bank

It has been exactly three months since the Nepal earthquake first struck and one month since the donor conference. The humanitarian phase is nearing its end, the international presence is starting to move onto the next crisis, and high level international dignitaries have now returned to their capitals. The earthquake is no longer making headline news and the government is getting back to business as usual, albeit with the huge challenge of rebuilding.
 
Now is time to take stock of the events from the past three months. During a crisis, there is no time for those involved to look back at what has been accomplished. What matters is the next immediate action and challenge to overcome.  Last week, in the Bank headquarters, our management and some members of the earthquake response team presented the progress achieved thus far to an overcrowded room. This was my first opportunity to reflect on the disaster and I was almost overcome with emotion. Be they senior government officials, the Bank’s country office team, first- emergency responders, or Nepalis, it is difficult to articulate just what folks have overcome in Nepal.

Toward a resilient Nepal

Ram Sharan Mahat's picture
 
Nepali women rebuild housing structures
 Photo Credit: Laxmi Prasad Ngakhushi


It has been 50 days since the devastating earthquake struck Nepal on April 25.  With another powerful aftershock on May 12, a combined 9,000 lives were lost, making this the worst disaster in Nepal’s history in terms of human casualties.  One in three Nepali has been affected by the earthquakes.  One in ten has been rendered homeless.  Half a million households have lost their livelihoods, mostly poor, subsistence farmers.  Everyone has been affected in one way or the other – women, men, children, the elderly, the differently-abled.  A large part of the country is in ruins.
 
Nepal is grateful to her friends in the international community for the rapid humanitarian response in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.  We owe you our deep respect for your generosity and heroism.
 
Early estimates from our Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) price the damages and economic losses at US$ 7 billion, roughly one-third of our economy.  The economic growth rate this fiscal year ending mid-July is expected to be the lowest in eight years, at 3.04 percent.  Revenue collections will be off-target by at least 8 percent and result in a lower base going into the next FY.  The immediate priority is to restore the productive means of livelihood for millions of people in agriculture, services and industry.

Why women should lead Nepal’s recovery

Ravi Kumar's picture
Nepali women listening to an official
Nepali women listening to an official. Photo credit: World Bank

This post was originally published on Time 

Women have lost the most—and they have the most to lose

On April 25 and May 12, Nepal was hit by devastating earthquakes. As of June 8, there have been more than 8,700 deaths, and more than 22,000 injuries, according to government data. More than 775,000 homes have been destroyed or partially damaged. Those involved in the relief and recovery process have shown tremendous conviction to help Nepal rebuild. But Nepal’s deeply entrenched patriarchal and its unfair culture toward women will likely continue to complicate efforts to help the country recover.

As a Nepalese citizen and co-founder of a company that is using open data to help with the recovery efforts, it’s clear that one way to minimize the potential damage would be to ensure women are leading the reconstruction process.

While women leaders, such as Pushpa Basnet, are actively involved in the relief process, there aren’t enough. BibekSheel Nepali, a new political party in Nepal that deserves praise for pro-actively helping in the relief process, does not have any women in its leadership team.

Back to school in Nepal. What has changed?

Dipeshwor Shrestha's picture
Biswash, a 12 year old staying at the temporary camp in Uttar Dhoka showing the Dharahara collage he made.
Biswash, a 12 year old staying at the temporary camp in Uttar Dhoka showing the Dharahara collage he made. 
​Photo - Suresh Ghimire
On April 25, the day of the earthquake, my colleagues and I were organizing the final student exhibit to mark the end of our 12-week school session. There were 12 kids and their parents when the earthquake struck. Our first instinct was to keep the kids safe; we managed to stay calm, gathered everyone into an open space and stayed strong. After the aftershocks subsided, we got news of how devastating the earthquake actually was. We immediately called our loved ones. It was a relief that everyone we knew was safe.
 
I am a teacher at Karkhana, an education company that designs and delivers hands-on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths)-based content to middle school students in Nepal.
The first two days after the quake, we quickly realized that people without any specialized skills such as first aid, sanitation, nursing, construction, and rescue were not of much help in the immediate relief efforts.

The only way to contribute was to do what we are already good at - teach.

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