SERVIR-Himalaya Small Grant Programme

Building community resilience to flood hazards using geospatial technology

The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) in India will conduct research aimed at strengthening disaster resilience in the Himalayas by integrating GIS with local knowledge. The study seeks to identify and map hazards using geo-spatial tools, understand community perceptions of hazard risk, review communities’ coping mechanisms, and integrate community perceptions and experiences in the district-level mitigation plans. The project will conduct a case study of Uttarkashi district in the state of Uttarakhand in the Himalayan region of India. 

Communities perception of disaster and disaster preparedness largely determines the kind of action they take to prevent or manage disaster. The study will integrate local knowledge and understanding with technical knowledge and improve the real-world applicability of geospatial technology. This method will have an edge over conventional DRR methods, because integrating local knowledge in GIS and maps will enable users to gain a fuller picture of the local context, which in turn can contribute in developing a more effective tool. 

The project will interact with two stakeholder groups - planners/administrators and communities. Planners and administrators include state and district government agencies that mainly deal with disaster management planning such as the Department of Disaster Management of Uttarakhand and the Uttarkashi District Disaster Management Authority. Block and village level administrative bodies and the departments of revenue, health, irrigation, agriculture, forest, forest panchayats, and development authorities will also be consulted. 

‘Community’ refers to a cluster of households in a village selected for the study. Placing communities at the centre while designing and implementing disaster risk management strategies can make disaster management more effective. Through focus group discussions and household level surveys, the study will engage directly with communities and try to increase their direct and active participation in the decision-making process.

The project will develop data maps for disaster, socioeconomic and environmental indicators at the local level. These maps can be used readily by local authorities while planning actions for disaster prevention and mitigation.

The study will add another layer - risk perception of communities - to vulnerability and risk assessment. This layer takes into account local communities’ knowledge and understanding of disaster risk, and will thus be instrumental in shaping action plans for disaster preparedness, mitigation and response.