Disaster Vulnerability: Snapshot of India

Give2Asia and the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) have partnered to connect private sector philanthropy to effective community-based programs that mitigate disasters in Asia’s most vulnerable countries. This post comes as the fourth in a series of six outlining the vulnerability of countries selected for the program. Learn more about the NGO Disaster Preparedness Program or read more about India’s vulnerability to disasters.

India’s landmass sits upon 67 active fault lines, making 57 percent of India vulnerable to seismic damage.  The country also faces coastal erosion and population displacement from sea level rise. Flooding, however, is India’s most common disaster, constituting 46 percent of the country’s disaster events. High magnitude floods during monsoon season occur each year, resulting in an average loss of life of about 1,590 per year and in total approximately $132 billionamage to the public. Drought, whilst only three percent of total recorded disasters, causes the most fatalities, with a single drought impacting an average of 75 million people - as well as their livelihoods, food security, and health. About 68 percent of arable land in India is vulnerable to drought. Given this, approximately 85 percent of Indian land is vulnerable to one or more natural hazards. Compounded by the fact that approximately 25 percent of the population lives in poverty and is therefore least resilient to disasters, India is one of the most victim-prone countries.

A large-scale disaster impacts the country’s economy and destroys any progress in economic development. Human factors such as deforestation, poor agricultural practices and land use, urbanization, and construction of large infrastructure all exacerbate disaster risks and vulnerability. At the local level, India suffers from poor communication systems, a lack of awareness among community members, and a wide gap of knowledge and expertise amongst, government, NGOs, and civil society members.

Until recently, government focused heavily on emergency response and less so on disaster preparedness. Its National Disaster Management Authority, State Disaster Management Authorities, Flood Management Programme, and Participatory Watershed Development program are examples of government efforts to combat natural disasters and climate change. The government also launched a number of national mitigation projects to strengthen disaster readiness in hazard-prone areas, and many state-level and local-level governments have initiated policies and programs. Much of the budget for disaster management is distributed to different states, depending on their expenditure on relief operations, their economic status, and vulnerability to disasters.

International donors can help people, communities, and industries across India defend against disasters through community-based programs, including climate smart agriculture, rainwater harvesting and recycling systems, training first responders to floods, and implementing early warning systems and evacuation plans. Opportunities for donors:

  • Raising homes and gardens above flood level in vulnerable areas
  • Rainwater harvesting, water recycling systems, and other drought mitigation techniques
  • Environmental protection and restoration in key locations, such as mangrove forests and flash flood-prone areas
  • Investing in grain banks and other food security reserve systems
  • Leverage technology to improve communication systems to build community awareness and knowledge
  • Advocacy and capacity building of local actors
  • Disseminating knowledge of evacuation centers and warning systems to local communities