King's College London

Research portal

Exploring the gap between policy and action in Disaster Risk Reduction: A case study from India

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

A. Ogra, A. Donovan, G. Adamson, K.r. Viswanathan, M. Budimir

Original languageEnglish
Article number102428
Pages (from-to)102428
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Volume63
Early online date25 Jun 2021
DOIs
E-pub ahead of print25 Jun 2021
PublishedSep 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This study builds on the institutional mapping of disaster management in India carried out for the LANDSLIP (Landslide multi-hazard risk assessment, preparedness, and early warning in South Asia: integrating meteorology, landscape, and society) project. LANDSLIP is a UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) funded project which aims to produce a Landslide Early Warning System for two study sites in India: the Nilgiris District in the Tamil Nadu State of South India and Darjeeling District (with East Sikkim, not included here) in West Bengal State of Eastern India. Fig. 1 shows the two study sites on the map of India. Both study districts are highly susceptible to landslide risk, causing major disruption during monsoon seasons through damage to infrastructure and property and occasionally lost lives. Multiple demand-oriented studies on landslides have already been carried out in both the study areas [45?49]. However, these works focus on landslide as a hazard and do not engage with the institutional structure available to address landslide risk in the two regions.The ongoing political situation in Darjeeling further exacerbates the situation in that district. The parsing of response and mitigation funds between the district and GTA reflects an absence of long-term thinking in relation to disasters. Here, despite regular and often deadly landslides, disasters are not considered priorities in the light of the ongoing political situation, as manifest in our difficulties in gaining interviews with the District Magistrate. The risk of landslides has therefore apparently been naturalised, as was shown in our observations in the district: houses and roads built on marginal land showed evidence of repeated stresses from landslides, yet people brushed this off as an inevitability, with no expectation that the situation could change through, for example, better building codes. The lack of specific mitigation funding therefore both reflects and further entrenches the existing paradigm [19] ? and is made worse in Darjeeling because of the fragmentation of responsibility.This paper is based on the institutional mapping work carried out under the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) funded project LANDSLIP (Landslide multi-hazard risk assessment, preparedness and early warning in South Asia integrating meteorology, landscape, and society). Project grant numbers: NE/P000681/1 and NE/P000649/1. Ogra is also supported by NERC Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Urban Disaster Risk Hub ?Tomorrow's Cities', reference NE/S009000/1. Funding Information: This paper is based on the institutional mapping work carried out under the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) funded project LANDSLIP (Landslide multi-hazard risk assessment, preparedness and early warning in South Asia integrating meteorology, landscape, and society). Project grant numbers: NE/P000681/1 and NE/P000649/1 . Ogra is also supported by NERC Global Challenges Research Fund ( GCRF ) Urban Disaster Risk Hub ‘Tomorrow’s Cities', reference NE/S009000/1 . Publisher Copyright: © 2021 Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors

Abstract

The transition from a response-based paradigm to an anticipative, prevention-based approach remains a stubborn challenge in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). Whilst the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) has advocated the latter since the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction in the 1990s, many countries have been slow to move from a response-focused approach to a preventative one. International policy guidelines have successfully informed the national DRR policies in various countries; however, their further translation down to the regional and local level is full of complex political challenges, exacerbated in many areas by an increased frequency of disasters. In this paper we explore the case of India, using the example of landslide risk management. Through an analysis of the evolution of landslide risk governance during the last two decades in two hilly regions – Darjeeling in the Himalayas and the Nilgiris in the Western Ghats – we demonstrate that while the national government appears to have made considerable efforts to move in line with the UNDRR approaches, the eventual outcome of these efforts at the regional and local level is largely an incremental improvement on the existing DRR approach and not a paradigm shift in understanding and addressing disaster risk. We argue that overcoming these issues requires attentiveness to a situated understanding of disasters and institutions at the local level, and not treating apparent gaps between policy and action as functional challenges to be overcome with new science from national level.

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454