Climate Change Action

Climate change is no longer a matter of conjecture given increasing global surface temperatures. Although current state of scientific research makes it difficult to ascribe causality of a natural disaster to climate change, it is predicted that there will be more droughts and increased intensity of storms. In any case, it is clear that disasters, both natural and manmade, disproportionately affect certain geographical regions and have greater impact on marginalized demographic groups. On both counts, Odisha is particularly vulnerable to possible impacts of climate change and to any kind of disaster.

Among India’s poorest states, if not the poorest state, Odisha’s citizens largely lack the means to afford individual or household defenses against most calamities. Yet, the state’s sub-tropical littoral location renders its coastal areas much more prone to tropical cyclones, storm surges, and tsunamis as well as to frequent floods from the heavily silt laden rivers. The other regions in the interiors too face floods while also bearing the brunt of cloud bursts, droughts, freak whirl winds, heat waves, and lightning strikes. Odisha’s topography and climate also makes it particularly susceptible to vector borne epidemics while industrial disasters and human induced accidents, stampedes, fires etc only add to people’s suffering. Climate change’s impacts, though difficult to perceive in the short term, are becoming undeniably evident. As Odisha’s coastline erodes and the sea pushes in, displaced residents of Satyabhaya village in Kendrapara district have become emblematic of this new reality, by becoming climate refugees.

As signatory to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, India has declared its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, to reduce green house gas emissions, by adopting low carbon development strategies. The Government of India and Government of Odisha (GoO) have prepared national and state climate action plans to contribute to minimizing temperature rise and to address climate induced disasters. In fact, GoO created its disaster mitigation machinery in 1999 following a Super Cyclone. Its performance since, during cyclones in 2012 and 2013, has been lauded. Yet, given scale of disaster challenges Odisha faces, there is a need to keep alert and to constantly push for improving capability and capacity.

Civil society organizations, as stakeholders in this process, can augment GoO’s ability to respond to disasters and to implement state climate action plan at the proverbial last mile.

Discussion Points:

  • What can be done to make disaster preparedness and responsiveness more participatory? How can local community’s skills and knowledge be better utilised in this process?
  • How can Disaster Management Act be fully implemented at district level and Disaster Management Committees made more proactive?
  • What can be done to gear up non-coastal regions to deal with disasters germane to them?
  • How can Odisha be better prepared for industrial and urban disasters?
  • What specific steps, in context of urban planning, poverty reduction, and bio-diversity conservation, can help reduce Odisha’s vulnerability to disasters?
  • How can CSOs be more effectively involved in GoO’s disaster mitigation architecture?
  • How can Odisha’s climate action plan be mainstreamed and effectively realized?
  • How can gender equality be ensured in both preparing for, and responding to, disasters and climate change?