June 12, 2011
Dept of Social Work, Amritapuri
Eminent scientists, scholars and academicians presented their research at the International Conference on Society, Technology and Sustainable Development, offering many diverse perspectives.
Joining these professionals were Amrita students of Masters in Social Work (MSW), who spoke about the research they conducted under the guidance of their faculty members.
Gahana P. presented her paper titled, Measuring Disaster Resilience: A Study on Urban Flood Management in Kerala, India, which she authored along with Dr. Sunil D. Santha, Chairperson, Amrita Department of Social Work.
The study was part of a larger effort aimed at measuring cities’ disaster resilience to urban floods.
“The state of Kerala in India is ravaged by the annual monsoons and the subsequent flooding,” explained Gahana. “My paper primarily attempted to explain the process of tool development to capture disaster resilience to flood hazards with respect to Kozhikode city in Kerala.”
Gahana developed a questionnaire and surveyed a hundred residents of the city, fifty of whom were government officials representing the collectorate, police station and district corporation office. The survey responses were statistically analyzed to determine the city’s perceived disaster resilience.
“Our index is still in the preliminary stages of development; we collected data from a hundred respondents only,” cautioned Gahana. “To finalize, we will collect and analyze data from over 700 respondents in different cities.”
The student and her guide zeroed in on environmental, socio-cultural, economic, physical, infrastructural and institutional factors to determine resilience. The duo found that disaster risk reduction is neglected in urban planning even today. On a positive note, however, community-based adaptation strategies were found to be very reliable for risk reduction.
“The tool and the discussions emerging out of our study could contribute to strengthen risk reduction initiatives,” Gahana concluded.
Another MSW student, Nimmy Rajan, presented a paper titled Impact of Disasters on Children: A Case Study, that she co-authored with her faculty guide, Renjith Pillai.
“Nearly 60% of the world’s natural disasters occur in the Asia-Pacific region,” Nimmy noted.
“About 60% of India’s land mass is prone to earthquakes; over 40 million hectares is prone to floods; about 8% of the total area is prone to cyclones and 68% of the sown area is susceptible to drought,” she added.
Highlighting that every year, on an average, 30 million people in India were affected by disasters, Nimmy stated that often it is the children who are among those most affected when disaster strikes. A study in Malaysia showed that nearly one year after the Asian tsunami, even when the children had all physical comforts again, their emotional scars had not completely healed.
Nimmy’s study tried to unearth the impact of the same tsunami on children in Kerala, six years after its occurrence. Thirty children were interviewed belonging to the age group of 6-15 years. The study found that the tsunami had left its impact on the children, and even after six years, not all was forgotten.
Perhaps that is why, in the days immediately following the tsunami, Amma had paid so much attention to the psyco-social care of these children. She had them participate in cultural camps at the ashram, and also go swimming with her in the ashram pool, to help overcome their fear of water.
Some children had lost their parents, some their siblings or friends. These and other such interventions from Amma had helped them overcome their fears to a large extent, paving the way for a somewhat normal life again.