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Climate Emergency, Disasters And Resilience: Inclusive Business Continuity Management

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Dr Simi Mehta, Amita Bhaduri, Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI)

The biggest global challenge of the 21st century is a climate emergency. News headlines are flooded with victims of disasters, often a by-product of climate change, wrecking some part of the world.

Disasters are triggered by natural, biological, technological hazards and are often exacerbated by climatic extremes and slow onset events. The impact of disasters can be felt across the spectrum as it ravages lives, economies, and ecosystems.

The increasing occurrence of disasters threatens to de-accelerate the progress achieved thus far in fulfilling the SDG goals. In such circumstances, the need to respond through disaster risk reduction and investment in resilience building becomes imperative for sustainable development.

Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are widely regarded as vital strategies for implementing and achieving sustainable development goals. The recent glacial disaster in Uttarakhand, India, which claimed countless lives and destroyed infrastructure, represents the need to recognize the danger of climate emergencies and disasters.

With this background, Dr Anil K Gupta, Professor, National Institute of Disaster Management, India speaks in a webinar on Climate Emergency, Disasters, and Resilience: Inclusive Business Continuity Management organized Center for Climate Change and Sustainable Development (CECCSD) at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, and India Water Portal.

Climate Change And Disasters

Dr Anil K Gupta stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic brought forth experiences for more than a decade. Highlighting the emergency’s complexity, he explained how the pandemic was not an isolated disaster but was accompanied by numerous cyclones, industrial accidents, drought, climatic extremes, and even rare locust attacks. Thus, looking at disasters in the context of climate change and subsequent implications warrants the designation of it as an emergency at the international, national, and local levels.

On the growing consciousness of climate change as an emergency, Dr Gupta mentioned the World Sustainable Development Summit wherein PM Modi and Myanmar’s head of state were vocal about the need to consider climate change as a global and a national emergency.

It is essential to recognize that climate change pertains not only to small-scale disasters. It is a complex issue that can manifest itself in various ways. Climate-induced migration can create concerns for national security, flood-induced erosions can lead to border disputes, and lack of resources also leads to conflicts.

There is a growing trend of climate change-related awareness in the global arena. Dr Gupta elucidated upon how the Inter-Governmental Panel’s work on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore brought forth a global awakening on the impact of climate change on human sustainability and the occurrence of disasters.

Policy Paradigms

The growing awareness also brought forth policies to combat disasters and to facilitate their management. The Hyogo Framework governed the period between 2005 and 2015 in disaster management.

Assessment of underlying factors of risk was designated as a priority numbered four under the framework. Subsequently, a transition happened from the Hyogo Framework to the Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction, wherein understanding disaster risk became the priority numbered one.

Addressing the delayed focus on understanding risk, Dr Gupta explained that disaster risk is dynamic, and it has become complex with climate change. Our very knowledge of disasters has evolved over the years.

There is a shift of focus from hazards that can be natural to anthropogenic vulnerabilities. Dr Gupta quoted a famous saying, “vulnerabilities do not fall from the sky”, emphasizing that hazards like rainfall can be natural, but poor drainage design is attributable to humans.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster risk reduction is also accompanied by international protocols such as the Paris Climate Agreement and the new Sustainable Development goals. Dr Gupta highlighted the growing need and focused on evidence-based and indicator assessments on the nature of policies.

Interlinkage Of Climate, Environment, Development, And Disaster

There exists an intricate relationship between climate, development, environment, and disaster. Climate change produces an impact on the environment through altering patterns of windfall and rain, among others. Environmental changes thus become drivers of catastrophe.

An analysis of the impact of climate change on vulnerabilities, i.e., land, people, infrastructure, and ecosystems, allows for comprehending the relation between climate and disaster and how the former aggravates the latter.

However, it is also essential to recognize the role of not only climate change but non-climatic actors. These would include city governance, drainage designs, housing designs, nature of urban planning, regional planning, etc. The relationship between environment and development is inversely related.

However, Dr Gupta, using the Kuznets curve, disregarded the notion of development at the cost of the environment. He stated that with environmental degradation, the per capita prosperity declines after the maximum point. The continuous stagnation of our economy reflects how ecological damage is a redundant strategy for development.

Disasters And Their Impact Analysis

In the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the definition of disaster takes cognizance of damages to all forms of lives and ecological systems. Dr Gupta, in his address, explained how another dimension of reducing the risk of disasters is to undertake an analysis of the impact. An assessment has to take into account physical and economic losses and the impact on the environment and ecological systems.

There is a growing realization that with early warning systems, better preparedness, and better use of technology, the loss of life in disasters can be reduced. However, a dichotomy exists; while the severity of the impact has been reduced, the quantum, i.e. the number of people being affected, have increased.

For the longest time, it has been accepted that disasters majorly impact low-income groups, although a recent trend shows that lower-middle-income groups are affected more. Given their higher social aspirations, the lower-middle-class move to cities and industrial areas, wherein their lack of resources compel them to stay in hazardous areas. An analysis of how various social segments are impacted by disasters is worth consideration.

Disaster Risk Reduction: Resilience Building, Climate Change Adaptation And Business Continuity Management

Dr Gupta highlights the need to anticipate the unknown, i.e. black swan events, sporadic, but they cause unprecedented devastation. Thus, requiring actions to undertake processes to prepare against them. There has to be better resilience that stems from adaptability.

The need for safeguarding has to extend to our future generations as well. Strategies for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction have to be sustainable.

In any climate disaster, people can be saved, but their way of life gets obliterated. The recovery cannot be undertaken on the meagre amounts of compensation they receive, and most importantly, it takes years. Even before recovery, there is recurrence.

Thus Dr Gupta emphasized the need to invest in resilience infrastructure. It is worth noting that India has taken the lead in resilient infrastructure through participation in the Coalition of Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI)

Dr Gupta also elaborated upon his climate resilience framework. The framework constitutes an assessment of vulnerabilities, although the vulnerabilities must be captured through a shared learning process that is participatory.

It also entailed utilizing local knowledge and scientific knowledge to implement resilience programs by identifying actions, prioritizing, designing, implementing, and monitoring. Climate change adaptation is also fundamental to disaster resilience. It is based on the three central pillars – economic resilience, ecosystem-based DRR, and engineering infrastructure.

Dr Gupta also emphasized the need for climate adaption to be integrated with disaster management at the district level planning. Capacity building of CCA and DRR integration has to be undertaken in developmental planning.

There should be a focus on neighbourhood levels, wards, and cities to undertake a participatory city resilience approach. Dr Gupta also discussed the need to focus on peri-urban systems currently lacking any planning protocol.

A review of business continuity regimes, i.e., looking at how businesses should sustain and have resilience against the impact of disasters, is also critical. How the corporate sector and companies perceive disaster resilience is essential for business continuity and business resilience. Business continuity, i.e. continuity of service, gets disrupted by disasters.

Thus, the need for a robust business continuity management system arises. Dr Gupta explained how such systems include business impact analysis, business continuity strategies, business continuity response, and exercise and testing.

Concluding Remarks

Dr Gupta advocated a middle path strategy for a sustainable regime, where a balance is struck between infrastructure growth and environmental protection to provide for resilience. He highlights that planning is vital and that utilization of knowledge should be undertaken at all levels, i.e. local, regional and national.

The plans should be simple, concise, and understandable. The flawed developmental plans implemented in the past have scope for continual improvement.

Additionally, our monitoring and alert systems can be made better by utilizing technology and indigenous knowledge. Dr Gupta also advocated for catastrophic modelling, wherein there is an equal focus on lower-order risks. Risks cannot be avoided, but their extent warrants consideration.

There is an opportunity to learn not only from developed countries but also developing countries, and there are ample spaces for cross-learning. Towards the end, Dr Gupta acknowledged that it is easier said than done. However, efforts should be made to include nature-based solutions into the mainstream.

Acknowledgement: Kashish Babbar is a research intern at IMPRI and is pursuing BA Hons. Political Science from Lady Sri Ram College of Commerce.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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