Stuck under the Weather

A short film depicting impacts of the Orissa Floods on land and livelihoods by Dr. Joe Hill (Tropentag October 6, 2011). The Cyclone warnings on the radio were only sent out hours before it hit. The people of Orissa suffered significant losses and after the storm resided, their only resort was to salvage rice and coconut water. Relief aid only came 4-5 days later. This can almost be seen as an regular scenario in Orissa. Farmers have no land of their own, and if they do it's not fertile to grow enough. Farmers are also aware of their fertilizer use degrading their land fertility, but they have no choice despite the fact that it could cause the next floods to be even worse. Many farmers have resorted to fishing in order to survive but this too is not enough. While cyclones and floods wipe out any coastal aquatic life, industrial fishing in deep waters outside Orissa significantly reduce fish numbers coming into the coast, significantly reducing local fishermen's catch. On land, there is a lack of water and a lack of work. "Every day is a struggle to make ends meet." Considering that it is a regular event, relief aid has started to put mechanisms in place that can reduce the impact of future disasters. Communities have engaged in disaster preparedness training, relief funds have established raised cyclone centers/schools, and also a disaster risk reduction committee was set up. However many of these projects are unfinished: relief centers are standing without electricity/plumbing or relief food packaged supposed to contain 53 kilos are missing all utensils. There is a need for livelihood and agricultural development. Just because floods destroy any land usage doesn't mean that agriculture and forestry can not play a role in mitigating these disasters. Infact, often it is the improper management of agricultural systems that can drastically amplify the impacts of a natural disaster. The government's forest department has started replanting trees on the beaches which can greatly benefit soil fertility and reduce erosion minimizing flood impacts in the future. Farming systems that promise high yields without fertilizer can be very helpful in such areas. Agricultural systems need to incorporate climate data to predict ideal planting seasons to avoid having crops during seasons with high risk of flooding. _DSC0233 Dr. Joe Hill giving an introduction to the Orissa Floods and the film. Unfortunately the 30 minute film had to be stopped short to make time for the next presentation session, however it does encourage us to think about not only the scientific challenges but also their application within local environmental challenges. We raise these discussions in light of next year's theme for Tropentag: "Resilience to Crises".


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