Our response to the massive floods in Chambal and Bihar
Welcome to the sixth issue of Voice of Ekta. Recently, there were massive floods in Bihar and Chambal. Unlike Bihar, the floods in Chambal were unexpected and relief operations were a struggle.
In this issue, we’re giving you a glimpse into the relief efforts across the flood-affected regions and the stories of those at the frontline of these operations, along with suggestions for what can be done to reduce the impact of such disasters.
Massive floods due to climate crisis need better strategies and preparedness: Ramesh Sharma
Despite the varying contexts, a climate change connection is evident in recent floods across India, as well as in Europe (UN-ESCAP, 2021). Floods in the Asia-Pacific region have been frequent and devastating both in terms of fatalities and economic losses.
Globally, 10 out of the top 15 countries with the most people exposed to annual river floods are in the Asia-Pacific region.
As of 31st August, following incessant rains, 573,938 people have been affected by floods in 1,287 villages in 22 districts of Assam. Similarly, as of 16 August that flooding has affected 2.7 million people and 2,176 villages across 15 districts in Bihar.
Both Assam and Bihar are known for recurrence of floods every year. Huge losses of lives, livelihood and resources together pushed the thousands of people into misery. On the other hand, the Chambal valley of Madhya Pradesh has not witnessed any serious flood crisis in the recent past, although several villages were affected by drought in the last few years.
However, at the beginning of August the heavy rain, overflowing rivers and dam releases together caused severe flooding across 1,225 villages in Shivpuri, Sheopur, Datia, Gwalior, Guna, Bhind and Morena districts. Nearly 50,000 people were rescued but a large number of people lost their livelihood and livestock.
Ekta Parishad has conducted massive relief work in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh and supported nearly 12,000 families. In all these states, the emerging climatic crisis caused severe damage, an area which the state needs to improve the preparedness for. It needs to work on a strong strategy, including working with the social organizations, which are important for timely support to the people affected by disasters like floods.
Ekta Parishad’s urgent response for the flood affected people: Ran Singh Ji
“This year has been unusual, one where we have been facing crises one after another. Soon after the pandemic, the unusually heavy rain in the Chambal valley of Madhya Pradesh taught us that we need to be ready for any crisis at any time.
We were lucky to have been able to organise relief material within a day and decided to take them to the 400 villages where people, especially members of the Sahariya tribe and Dalit community lost their entire harvest and available food material.
Flooding is not common in Chambal, hence our field workers were unaware of relief tactics in such a scenario, but thanks to their dedication and courage for taking on challenges, they came out of their homes for urgent relief work amid heavy rain.
Limited road access was the key challenge for us while transporting relief material to villages, but the local administration and a few transporters decided to collaborate with us, which made this easier. We learned that with changes in the weather pattern, we need to be ready for such unpredictable disasters.”
Stories from the frontline of flood relief operations
Ramkumar from Sheopur, Madhya Pradesh
“It was the midnight of 2nd August when I received a call from Ekta Parishad’s Chambal office. My team members informed us that we need to immediately start work to support the villagers in the Karahal block which was totally submerged.
There was a weather alert put out by the local administration for continued heavy rain for the next couple of days. Our team decided to find a place and cook food for the people who had been hungry for the last 3 days.
We realized that there was no dry place to cook food in the affected villages, so we reached out to as many people as possible and first helped the children and women by providing them with Khichdi. Within a short span of 2 days, we covered nearly 2000 families in the Karahal block.”
Kallu Sahariya from Sheopur, Madhya Pradesh
Kallu Sahariya is a 42-year-old man who belongs to a tribal community. He has never witnessed a flood in Sesaipura village, though the Karahal block of Sheopur in Madhya Pradesh is known for bouts of drought and alarming water scarcity in the recent past.
The unusually heavy rain ruined the harvest of all 120 families in his village. Whatever they have earned and grown during the pandemic is completely wet and has rotten because of the flood. The flood also completely submerged all the houses in the village.
Soon after the crisis of the flood, Ekta Parishad’s volunteers were the first to reach Kallu and other households in Katni village. Katni and 100 other villages were supported by cooked food and dry ration amidst heavy rain. Kallu and many others thank Ekta Parishad’s urgent response and wish to work as activists of Ekta Parishad in the long run.
Monica from Datia, Madhya Pradesh
“I have never seen the Sindh river swell as much as it did during the first week of August. My village Kotra is located on the banks of the Sindh River. During the night of 2nd August, my village flooded and it caused a lot of fear and panic.
People barely managed to save themselves. Unfortunately, everyone lost their home in the flood. For the next few days after that, the school building was our temporary shelter.
Somehow, we managed to inform Ekta Parishad representatives about our situation and they assured us of their support. We were so happy to receive polyethene sheets to build our temporary shelter and food material. Ekta Parishad also assured us that they will help us in building our livelihood resources for long-run sustainability.”
Ranjit Kumar from Supaul, Bihar
Village Sonapur is located on the banks of the Kosi River in the Supaul district of Bihar. Affected people were routinely supported by the local government, where they received cooked food and temporary shelter, but people said that the severity of floods is increasing every year and becoming more and more devastating.
While routine relief responses were unable to cater to the needs of the people in the entire flood plains of Kosi and other rivers in North Bihar, our team took responsibility for it and supported the people in their worst times.
Donger, State Coordinator, Madhya Pradesh
“As a youth, I was inspired by Bhai ji (Dr SN Subba Rao) and Raja ji (Rajagopal PV) and decided to dedicate my life to the service of the marginalised community in Chambal valley. For the last 17 months, our team has been tirelessly working to ensure that relief material reaches the villagers.
This work has given a new image to Ekta Parishad and all of us. We are overwhelmed by the appreciation received by the people and local administration throughout our relief work. I also learned that we need to explore new ways to build positive spaces for faithful dialogue and cooperation with the local government.
Today, I am proud to lead the state of Madhya Pradesh with a dedicated team of field activists spread over 30 districts and also take pride in the fact that we were able to take on the challenges presented by this flood and stand up to support the marginalised community.”
Pradeep Priyadarshi, National Committee Member, Bihar
“In Bihar, especially during monsoon season, we put ourselves on high alert mode for relief responses to flooding affected areas. This year too, when the flood started devastating the villages, our dedicated team immediately connected with the village representatives and ensured food supplies within a few hours.
I personally feel that the Bihar government needs to set a fool-proof policy and support infrastructure to enhance the efficacy of relief operations in the flood plains of North Bihar. It is also important for the State to evolve a platform for collaborating with the social organisations and local collectives who could be instrumental in bringing new energies into the relief effort, which devastates hundreds of villages every year. There is an urgency to think for both long-term and short-term measures.”