Firstly I must start this final report by acknowledging your great generosity in helping us meet the target for this appeal, and now it is fully funded.
As regular donors will know many project reports have talked about the problems with government or aid from larger organisations actually reaching the people in need. Smaller grass roots organisations like us do have an advantage , rooted as we are in local communities. There are problems with distribution and sometimes sadly misappropriation with larger agencies who do not have the same closeness to the community. But of course small organisations cannot implement large building projects such as new check dams and of course there is a need for both micro and macro projects.
The big thing is the people in the flood affected areas are better off in many ways then when we started the appeal as a humanitarian gesture to help local people recover from a devastating event.
Aside from the immediate help , blankets, mosquito nets , medical supplies etc that your donations provided we were able to assist many villagers in acquiring livestock, to give small loans for income raising enterprises and to give advice and help in building ditches to divert surface water. Again as you can see from previous reports we were able to do this very effectively due to close community involvement.
We hope and pray the “river of sorrow” the Kosi spares the villagers next monsoon.
Thanks to you we stand ready to respond if the need arises, you have helped hundreds of poor villagers recover from an awful situation.
On behalf of all of them, our Heartfelt appreciation goes out to you all
Firstly may I send our concern to all those who suffered from Hurricane Sandy, both in the Caribbean and the USA. As someone who has seen at first hand the devastating effects of flooding, (although not in a developed country) I understand only too well the heartbreak it can bring.
Well flooding this year in the project area, I am very pleased to report was not as bad as previous years. That’s not to say flooding did not occur in several places or that the river of sorrow, the Kosi did not bring any misery with its monsoon waters this year. It did, but thankfully not on a scale compared to previous years.
This article by Ranu Sinha of the New York Times illustrates what progress has been made in recent years, and People First is proud to have been part of this process through this appeal.
“The year was 2008, and I had just walked out of a meeting on flood management with the chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar. Mr. Kumar, fully aware of the challenges of annual floods in Bihar, had asked for assistance in building new flood defenses.
Unfortunately, this call for help came a little too late. Hours later, the eastern embankment of the Kosi barrage, a major flood protection infrastructure in Nepal, collapsed on its left side, resulting in one of the most devastating floods in the history of the state. In Bihar alone, over three million people were affected, with official sources reporting over 500 deaths and close to 3,500 missing.
However, this flood did not occur as a result of too much rain. In fact, the water levels in the river were much lower than expected. What caused the flooding was too little maintenance. Official reports state that much-needed repairs on the embankments had been delayed for a number of years, severely weakening the effectiveness of the infrastructure. Eventually, the day came when the barriers of the embankment could not withstand the pressure of the river.
The business of flood management in India — the ability to predict, prepare, respond and recover from flood-related disasters — is the responsibility of state governments. Though non-state actors and the people affected can play a part in flood management, the lion’s share of the formal responsibility generally lies with state-run irrigation or water resources departments. Other agencies, like state disaster management and local governments, also play a key role.
Though research is limited on this topic, it is clear that there is a significant gap in the quality, performance and ability of these institutions to manage the complexity of floods.
As one of India’s most flood-prone states, Bihar faces enormous challenges. Bihar’s river systems and its 16 river basins are some of the most complex in the world, with a heterogeneous set of rivers flowing into the state from the Himalayas. Excessive rainfall, bursting rivers and breaching embankments are a recurring phenomenon that tend to wreak havoc on the lives of millions, with the poor usually the worst affected.
The 2008 Kosi floods were a wake-up call for the government of Bihar. Its water resources department is now trying to make sure the disaster of 2008 doesn’t happen again. I am leading a team of experts to study how the department institutionally manages floods. Our research, which is sponsored by the International Growth Center (I.G.C.) India-Bihar country program, a global research and policy center headquartered in Britain, has attempted to investigate the institutional factors that may be contributing to increased risks from floods to Bihar’s 103 million people.
Our team conducted household surveys of affected communities and staff interviews of water resources department engineers, from junior officers to the leadership in the state capital of Patna.
The findings were eye-opening. The water resources department is in charge of both irrigation and the management of floods, but in most cases the supply of staff in the department does not match the demand of the dual responsibilities of irrigation provision and flood management. Staff shortages tend to lead to an overemphasis on the construction of new flood protection infrastructure and little time and manpower for ensuring the quality of what already exists.
Some staff members stressed the need for further training in modern-day flood management techniques, particularly the junior members who generally bear the responsibility of being the first to protect infrastructure and communities in the event of a flood. The staff also did not have sufficient hardware and software to adequately perform their duties. Tools like vehicles and computers, as well as flood-related technology, are in short supply. Inefficient systems monitor the performance of staff and the quality of the maintenance of flood infrastructure.
Engagement with communities, actively involving them in essential flood-fighting activities, seems to be ad hoc and underdeveloped, while coordination with other agencies at the local and state levels needs to be severely strengthened. Essentially, the problem boils down to too much to do in too little time, with too few resources.
Bihar is not alone in grappling with these challenges. In June, an embankment breach on the island of Majuli in Assam on the Brahmaputra River affected more than 200 villages and is being called one of the worst floods in the state in the last 14 years. Reports from the flood indicate that much of the early work of flood preparedness and embankment maintenance was largely nonexistent. This recent flood may have been less severe had the local irrigation department conducted high-quality maintenance work on the embankments.
It is not purely a coincidence that total flood damage in India, in terms of population affected and crops and assets destroyed, has risen from approximately 520 million rupees in 1953 to over 88 billion rupees in 2000. India, therefore, desperately needs to transform its water management agencies to address these concerns rather than pour money into more concrete.
Bihar is one of the few states in India to begin transforming its flood management practices. Data from first hand experiences has convinced policy makers that reforms are necessary. This means hiring thousands of new staff, setting up world-class training institutes, improving the knowledge of field staff in state-of-the-art techniques of flood management and creating new quality procedures and inspection systems that can track how well an embankment is performing. It also means actively involving communities in disseminating warnings and sharing the burden of flood protection alongside its engineers.
In Bihar’s 2011-12 budget, the government estimated it would spend close to 77 billion rupees ($1.4 billion) on irrigation, flood control and energy. This is significantly higher than the amount budgeted in 2010-11, which was close to 56 billion rupees. The increase in funds will be critical to implement crucial changes.
What India has now is more like underpaid, poorly trained fire fighters fighting blazes with leaky hoses and battered trucks, and this status quo cannot adequately protect the millions of lives at stake. Reform must happen even though these are not easy changes to make. They cannot happen overnight, but they will make a difference in the way state institutions plan, manage and respond to the inevitable flood. The changes under way in Bihar may soon lead the way for the rest of country”
Cleary things have improved, but there is still some way to go. As this appeal nears its completion we ask you to provide us with donations to buy the emergency supplies like medicines, food and blankets that we can distribute in the area when needed in the next monsoon. Your support has meant a great deal to so many families, both the immediate assistance of essential items and the longer term help with livestock and help with new small scale income raising enterprises. This is Rajiv Kumar a local villager. “ the consistent help and support we have received has really helped us in so many ways, but the fact that People First is a small community based organisation working with local people directly has meant we get the materials and help we need without any delay. “Thank you all so much for helping us”
Please help us complete this important appeal.
It really has transformed lives.
Following the pattern of recent years there is a North-South Split in the monsoon in Bihar. In the North although so far widespread flooding has been avoided, parts of the south are suffering from deficient rains. Here is the situation in North Bihar,
Incessant rains in the catchment areas have caused rivers flowing through north Bihar to swell and flood parts of West Champaran, Saharsa and Kishaganj districts. Some of the rivers flowing through the area have crossed the danger mark.
Reports reaching Patna said flood waters have inundated several blocks of West Champaran district following release of water from Valmikinagar barrage. Several villages in Saharsa and Kishanganj were also submerged.
The floodwaters of Gandak and Bhapsa rivers completely submerged a girl’s school at Harna Tad in Bagaha sub-division. About 100 students were evacuated from the school hostel by the administration as the floods, which came yesterday, washed away a bamboo bridge connecting the school building.
However the widespread flooding of recent years has yet to occur, this is the situation in the South,
Bihar Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh on Thursday said that 25 of 38 Bihar districts are drought-affected. The state government, however, has not officially declared drought in the state.
Singh said, “Though there has been good rainfall in some parts of Bihar, most districts have been facing drought because of below average rainfall.” The minister said the government would assess situation for a few more days and take a call on drought declaration in the affected districts. He also sought cooperation from the Opposition to mount pressure on the Centre to help the state fight drought.
We have people in the north closely monitoring the situation, and we now have good links with the local administration, ready to respond if the rivers rise further.
We send our thanks to all of for all of your help, we ready with immediate aid when the need arises, please look out for further reports.
Greetings, to all our supporters, from Bihar India The flowing article illustrates the many complex issues around development in the flood affected area.
DISPLACEMENT OF COMMUNITIES FOR NEW BRIDGE
Disregarding massive humanitarian losses like some 50 lively villages already swallowed by the mighty Kosi river’s waters and the displacement of over 75,000 people, a mega road bridge across the river in Bihar was inaugurated amid fanfare and protests on Wednesday, restoring a vital link ruined 78 years ago. For Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who, as the railway minister then, had laid the foundation stone for the Kosi Mahasetu, along with then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in June 2003, completion of the 1.8-km bridge in the northern Supaul district was of “unspeakable happiness”. Inaugurating the bridge along with Union road transport and highways minister C.P. Joshi, Mr Kumar asked people in flood-prone northern Bihar to “celebrate and congratulate one another” even as hundreds of displaced villagers and activists waved black flags in protest. A bridge of bountiful blessings and predictable bane, the project executed by NHAI and Gammon India has baffled river engineers and social activists in Bihar as much as it has blighted the peace of over one hundred thousand people in 64 villages. Completed in four years and nine months, the saving grace of this `418-crore project at Nirmali, part of the East-West Corridor, is that it will restore direct territorial and cultural links between Bihar’s Mithilanchal and Seemanchal regions that had collapsed in 1934, when a devastating earthquake pulled down a railway bridge. Absence of rehabilitation facilities for a majority of the displaced people and the looming danger to about 380 fertile, three-crop villages, both upstream and downstream, due to the forcible squeezing of the Kosi’s traditionally expansive width into just 1.8 km have propelled a public protest movement for years. With the bridge finally open for use in its disputed shape and size, it public frustration is expected to turn into anger. “The displaced people approached all authorities concerned, from the state government to the NHAI, the railways, the Ganga Flood Control Commission, but no remedial action on the bridge and measures for rehabilitation were taken,” said Narayan Jee Choudhary of Mithila Gram Vikas Parishad, an NGO at the forefront of the movement. Satyanarayan Prasad, a leader of the displaced villagers, said the affected people were feeling “acutely hopeless and angry, but not defeated”
Source Press Report.
As we continue to work at Grass roots level, as one villager put it, “the assistance and support I received in immediate help with practical things like mosquito nets and blankets and later strengthening and repairing my house and replacement of animals lost made all the difference to my family and I”
However the nature of this appeal is disaster relief and therefore time limited. We shall continue the appeal closely monitoring the situation in the coming monsoon . Unfortunately lives are lost every year but since the terrible floods strengthened embankments and other major construction have hopefully eased the problem. We feel with our help we have achieved an enormous amount with your help but given our available resources it is likely we shall close the appeal in September. However this will depend on the nature of the rains this year. Please help us reach our target.
Dear Friends and Supporters,
Greetings from Bihar.
Thank you for your continuing support.
All over the world when the media spotlight moves away from natural disasters and 24 hour wall to wall TV coverage becomes zero coverage, the victims are left behind. It is depressing how all too often,( not always) the huge sums of money raised by compassionate donations seems to have little effect at the point of need. If you do not mind me saying Bill Gates and other big donors including government aid is all well and good, but why it is not more thoughtful and better balanced?
We understand the Bill Gates foundation has given 90 million dollars over 4 years to the Bihar Government to improve health care provision in just a few districts. We welcome any help given to anybody, but we all know these large scale interventions rarely achieve the desired changes. More thoughtful locally based interventions working with people at the grass roots level with real cooperation and involvement with the actual communities in which they are based often achieve much better and more lasting results with far far less money. We are not saying one approach is by its self wrong, but it is flawed by its singular inflexible approach with policies often determined a very long away from the point of need.
GlobalGiving enables individuals with its carefully vetted and tracked projects to get funds to such grass roots organisations that have a very real positive effect directly on People’s Lives.
We have been able, as previous project reports have pointed out been able to engage local people directly in making their homes safer, to provide replacement livestock or cheap loans to start small business, and given out relief materials directly to people in need of them.
We will leave these communities stronger and more equipped to deal with the threat of flooding than even before. With your hep we will be able to continue this important work.
We thank you for your kindness and the next report will include a personal story from just one family , typical of many that we have been able to assist due to your generosity.
With Thanks and Warm best Wishes,
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