Involve communities in disaster management, says U.S. expert

Amy Chester urges governments to spend disaster relief money wisely

July 23, 2019 07:15 pm | Updated 07:15 pm IST - Kochi

Communities have to be educated and made aware of collaborating in disaster management and mitigation endeavours. They should be told of the options available to them and encouraged to cooperate and provide feedback, Amy Chester, Managing Director, Rebuild by Design, New York, has said.

She was speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of a two-day thematic workshop on policy planning and infrastructure development organised jointly by the U.S. Consulate General in Chennai, the Centre for Public Policy Research in Kochi and the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority.

In her presentation, she said Rebuild by Design “is a process that brings together global and local expertise, regional leadership and local vision to tackle multidimensional problems that harness and cultivate strong stakeholder support and government leadership.”

The government must make sure what the community wants and act accordingly because it will be difficult to work on management measures if the community is not in agreement with the plans, she said.

Communities are aware. “Don’t underestimate the awareness of communities”, she said recalling how during one of her works in Porto Rico with a group of people in the low-income category experts were able to learn more about the ground realities from the people. When data were shown to the community, they said ‘no’ because they knew what was happening at the ground level, she said.

The expert also pointed out to the wise use of disaster relief money. In the U.S., every dollar spent on disaster planning yielded $6 in future benefits, she pointed out as part of her presentation while highlighting how government spending had risen as instances of extreme weather conditions increased.

Money should be spent in such a way that the infrastructure built as relief measures served other purposes for the communities during normal times.

Mayor Soumini Jain inaugurated the workshop on Tuesday in the presence of S. Suhas, District Collector.

Experts like Himanshu Grover were among those who shared their experiences during the workshop. Uma Vasudevan, District Project Officer, United Nations Development Programme, Ernakulam, delivered the welcome speech and D. Dhanuraj, Chairman, CPPR, proposed a vote of thanks.

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