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Integrated Relief and Recover after the 2006 Flood in Surat City

Source: Disaster Mitigation Institute

The City of Surat in Gujarat exemplifies the development disaster nexus. An industrial city located on the bank of a
river, with large working class population inhabiting slums, signifies complex vulnerabilities to risk from natural hazards - in this case flooding. Over time, the physical aspects of vulnerability of the city have increased with the growth of its industries. Mega development projects elsewhere, as the release of water from the Ukai dam in the State of Maharashtra showed, add to this. Industrial cities invite labour migration. These individuals often live in poor, marginal, and socially and economically insecure conditions.

The 2006 flood is a demonstration of the inability of a vulnerable city and its population to withstand or protect themselves from flood hazards. The recent flood in Surat also demonstrates the continuity of the dominant approach to deal with disasters. A serious lack of preparedness and prevention measures by the authorities was evident. Surat experiences frequent annual flooding and had a similar flood disaster in 1998, which suggested similar same causes and effects. However, lessons of these incidences have not guided the disaster management authorities, the city administration or the citizens to be better prepared. Similar to other similar crisis situations, relief and recovery agencies are at work in Surat. It is time to question to what extent we are able to look beyond the emergency and pitch the recovery with a long-term vision. Where can the levels of risk and vulnerabilities be reduced? Where can the capacities of the administration and the population be built towards better preparedness and prevention, not only from seasonal floods, but also from more severe incidents such as the 2006 flood? Civil society, including non-governmental organisations, is making substantial efforts to demonstrate more sustainable preparedness-focused approaches to long-term recovery from early stages. However, the efforts of the NGOs face the challenge of reaching the required scales. The bigger actors, in particular the government agencies, need to take the best of such initiatives to adopt a preparedness and risk reduction approach towards recovery. When this happens, the impact of the subsequent flood
events will be significantly less.

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