On 26 January 2001, an earthquake registering 7.9 on the Richter scale devastated the Indian state of Gujarat. Twenty thousand people died, 167,000 were injured and as many as 600,000 people were left homeless. Over 348,000 houses were destroyed and an additional 844,000 damaged. Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) agencies were quick to respond to the earthquake, moving in rapidly to provide much needed relief services. The Network’s significant presence in Gujarat ensured immediate assistance to affected communities. AKDN also made a commitment to help them prepare, over the long term, to deal with natural disasters. The Earthquake Rehabilitation Programme has been working to rehabilitate affected communities in selected villages located in the Kutch region of Gujarat. Over 40,000 people will benefit.
The 2001 Gujarat earthquake was the second largest recorded earthquake in India. It was the worst natural disaster in India in more than 50 years. Nearly 16 million people out of a total population of 37.8 million suffered the earthquake’s effects. Government estimates place direct economic losses at US$ 1.3 billion; other estimates put the figure as high as US$ 5 billion.
Of the 21 districts affected, four were particularly hard hit. The Kutch District was one of them. Four hundred villages were destroyed. Of the 20,000 dead in Gujarat, over 18,000 died in this region. In the city of Bhuj (in Kutch district), over 3,000 inhabitants died, the main hospital was reduced to rubble and close to 90 percent of the buildings were destroyed.
There was significant damage to hospitals, schools, electric power and water systems, bridges and roads. Water supply systems in villages were affected. of the district’s 1359 primary schools were destroyed. Damaged health facilities have not been able to provide access to essential healthcare services to resource-poor communities, especially women and children.
The Multi-sector Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Programme, implemented by the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), has been working to assist communities affected by the earthquake that struck Gujarat in 2001. The programme has built disaster-resistant houses and two new rural education centres. Community-managed drinking water supply systems have been set up. Water harvesting structures are reversing groundwater depletion. New clinics are offering primary health care services to women and children. Savings and credit schemes are helping people regain their livelihoods. Disaster preparedness and management training for villagers has begun. In collaboration with the State Government, training is being provided to NGOs working in the area in areas such as drought management.
The objectives of the programme are:
- Reconstructing houses, a school and rural education centres damaged or destroyed by the earthquake;
- Restoring livelihoods through the protection and management of local natural resources;
- Strengthening healthcare systems to improve access and the range and quality of essential services;
- Introducing water supply and sanitation systems in villages;
- Empowering village based institutions and other agencies through training programmes to plan and manage equitable and participatory rehabilitation processes as well as initiate disaster preparedness of the community. This is important given the fact that the area is on a seismically fragile zone and further earthquakes cannot be ruled out;
- Documenting and disseminating lessons learned.
An Integrated Programme
The Programme delivers a comprehensive package of combined services, including shelter-construction combined with income-raising activities; drought proofing with water and sanitation interventions; health, nutrition and psychological stress amelioration with education and disaster preparedness.
To maximise the combined resources of these programmes and to ensure that they translate into long-term security, the Network is working with five principal actors in the region:
- Communities partnering in the implementation of the Programme,
- Implementing agencies and donor partners,
- Private providers who work in the areas,
- Other NGOs working in the areas,
- Local government agencies.
Housing and Sanitation
Seventy-six houses (out of a proposed 100) have been constructed by the Network and families have moved in. The houses are both cyclone and earthquake resistant and include toilets and bathrooms.
The community contributes roughly eight per cent of costs. Of a total cost of roughly Rs 51,000 for each unit, the community is required to contribute approximately Rs 4,000, usually in terms of labour. So far, this has generated almost 10,000 person-days of employment, providing approximately INR 11,20,240 (US$ 23,800) worth of revenue to the community.
Traditionally, sanitation coverage, in terms of toilets and bathrooms, has been marginal in this area. In one of the Programme villages, this situation has largely been reversed. Over 105 sanitation units have been constructed (with requests for 125 more). Villagers are willing to contribute up to 50 percent of the cost. In Nagalpur village, for example, the walls of a previously built sanitation structure were repaired. A women’s self-help group facilitated the process by offering free labour.
A piped drinking water supply system catering to 80 families in Khambra village has been introduced. The beneficiaries formed a user group called a paani-samiti (water-committee) that levies a monthly charge of Rs 15 (US$ 0.30) per household towards a maintenance fund for the system. This is over and above the Rs 200 (US$ 4.30) for each connection that was collected from each beneficiary earlier, amounting to over Rs 20,000 (US$ 434) that was used to create a base for the fund.
An orientation and training programme ensured that the group was able to manage the system on a sustainable basis. Management involves collection of monthly subscriptions, banking, repair and maintenance and conflict resolution. Several community water stand-posts have also been installed and a school sanitation system has been constructed.
Managing Water and other Natural Resources The region, like the rest of Gujarat, has been suffering a drought for the last four years. Water tables are dangerously low and groundwater in villages close to the coast is prone to salinity, making it unfit for both agriculture and domestic use. This is already affecting the agrarian economy of the region. The villages draw their water from the only freshwater aquifer of the area and are concerned that groundwater from their region is pumped (even sold in some cases) away from the region to the neighbouring Kandla port and surrounding area.
The result is that groundwater is being depleted at the rate of 1 cm per day or 12 feet per year. Freshwater is available at a depth of 250 feet till 500 feet. Beyond that depth, the water is saline. A technical support unit, set up in collaboration with the Government of Gujarat, is providing training to NGOs working on drought proofing and water conservation in the area.
The Programme also emphasises conservation and equitable distribution of natural resources in the villages and through improved agricultural practices.
Check dams, percolation tanks, bore-well recharging and “contour-bunding” of fields are already addressing some of these issues, primarily through water harvesting and the raising of ground water levels. A reservoir in one of the villages has been repaired. Efforts to improve agricultural practices involved: demonstrating new technologies, organising exposure visits, and conducting training programmes.
The introduction of modern water saving agricultural practices, such as the use of drip irrigation systems, is already promoting water management. Floriculture and vegetable farming is also being encouraged.
Health and Hygiene Promotion
Health centres are now operational in three villages and will eventually provide services to 20,000 beneficiaries in eight villages. The clinics are staffed by a visiting doctor and a pharmacist while “Lady Health Visitors” manage day-to-day operations and keep health records. A women volunteer base seeks to ensure service delivery at the household level and that health benefits reach the wider (and dispersed) rural community.
This integrated approach of health care delivery extends the impact of health initiatives far beyond curative health care to many of the root causes of ill health, such as female illiteracy, health promotion and disease prevention, nutrition and personal hygiene.
The Network is addressing respiratory tract infections and other infectious diseases by raising awareness of the immunisation programme. There has also been marked success in the area of post-natal and antenatal care. Combined, the three villages already boast of over 75 percent coverage. Immunisation programmes for pregnant mothers has achieved 90 percent of its target, while the Pulse Polio coverage for children, in collaboration with government agencies has achieved 95 percent. The response to the Hepatitis B vaccination programme has also been very encouraging.
The Network is also helping to build destroyed and damaged schools. The Mundra School, which was built in 1908, was completely destroyed but is now in the process of being re-built. Earlier, it was a primary school catering to approximately 300 students until class seven, but it will now to become a higher secondary school.
Two pre-school day-care centres - planned for Nagalpur and Sinugra village - are currently operating from rented premises. The centres have an average of 40 students each.
The pre-schools follow a successful and innovative system of activity-based and child-centred learning processes where teachers function as facilitators to help guide students to learn by observation and group-based activities.
Disaster Preparedness and Management Capabilities
Programme staff have selected 100 villagers (including women) who will be given intensive disaster management training. This will include preparation for post-earthquake, cyclone and fire situations. The objective of the programme is to help build up, within a short period of time, a mechanism that can respond to natural calamities and help save lives.
Results of the training should include better coordination with relief and rescue efforts of the government and humanitarian agencies so as to avoid the common mismanagement that often hampers relief operations following natural disasters.
By prioritising measures for vulnerability reduction in a transparent, accountable and inclusive way, the programme aims to shape future disaster response and related development projects in other areas of Gujarat, as well as in other drought prone states.