Participatory approach crucial for flood management


With the aim to share diverse approaches on flexible flood management and planning, a daylong consultation workshop under the ongoing Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP) was held on 21 December 2013 in Lakhimpur, Assam. 

The Guwahati-based NGO Aaranyak and the District Disaster Management Authority of Lakhimpur organized the event jointly with support from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). Participants included officials from government departments representing water resources, disaster management, and public health engineering from Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts, community members, NGOs, teachers, and researchers from India, Nepal, and the United States.

Photo: GRID-Arendal/Lawrence Hislop

Photo: GRID-Arendal/Lawrence Hislop

Inaugurating the workshop, Deputy Commissioner of Lakhimpur, Gaurav Bothra, highlighted the recurrence of floods in the districts, requiring structural measures as well as flood early warning systems and other innovative approaches to enhance water management. Dr Partha J Das of Aaranyak welcomed the participants and explained the purpose of the workshop. This was followed by a short introduction to HICAP by Neera Shrestha Pradhan of ICIMOD. 

Dr Petra Tschakert of the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research Oslo (CICERO) and the Pennsylvania State University explained the participatory methodology used to enhance adaptive capacities and resilience to social, environmental, and climatic changes. 

The key four steps of the methodology are: participatory flood mapping, community-based flood monitoring, participatory envisioning, and flexible flood management planning. She also introduced downscaled climate projections for the two districts up to 2050. The most important insights from these projections for the Eastern Brahmaputra River Basin are increased frequency and severity of extreme events, higher variation in rainfall, and increased temperatures, especially in the early morning. 

During subsequent discussions, participants shared their experiences regarding flood management and climate change. To further explore possible solutions for adaptation, participants then envisioned in small groups possible futures for Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts in 2033 and discussed key elements of flexible planning for the next five to 15 years. 

To address deteriorating environmental conditions such as deforestation, sedimentation, biodiversity loss, and extreme seasonal variation in river flow, the teams proposed a variety of solutions that included public awareness, early warning systems, watershed management, afforestation, change in crops, alternative economic opportunities, and health services for adaptation. 

Major outcomes of the consultation workshop included the need for better coordination among institutions and departments, the need for promoting flexible planning and associated training from the district to the state and regional level, and incorporating medium- to long-term climate change projections. 

Community members expressed the benefits of participating in the workshop.