Indigenous Knowledge in Disaster Management in India

The indigenous and local communities worldwide have prepared, operated, acted and responded to disasters using their indigenous methods and passed them on from one generation to the next, even before the invention of high technology-based early warning systems, or standard operating procedures for response (UNISDR 2008*). Two indigenous knowledge success stories revived the interest in the notion in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. During the deadly tsunami, the Simeulueans and Moken of Sumatra and the Surin Islands of the coasts of Thailand and Myanmar drew on oral traditions handed down through generations. Many tribes have utilised indigenous wisdom to survive disasters and adapt to harsh environmental circumstances, but these two recent occurrences have grabbed the media's attention.

At regular intervals, devastating earthquakes occur in the Kashmir region, which is located in a seismically active area. On October 8, 2005, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, was felt across India and Pakistan. The houses of local inhabitants did not collapse. Large pieces of wood or timber are implanted into the masonry walls as horizontal runners in the Taq system. The tops of windows and the floors each have these runners. A building or residence is held together by these runners, preventing the spread and breaking of brickwork by connecting all components. Reinforced cement concrete constructions became very dangerous and collapsed entirely after ground shaking without competent expert advice. The earthquake in Kashmir proved the benefits of old building methods over new approaches, which were used without sufficient application of modern techniques in constructing houses or buildings. Reintroducing old building methods like Dhajji-Dewaris and Taqs illustrated their superiority to current methods. These procedures should be taught to more Kashmiri masons so that they can build buildings.

Rural Rajasthani communities have built their homes using native materials and indigenous techniques for many years. All members of the family are involved in the building of their dhani, and everyone has a specific role and duties. The men of the family collect soil from neighbouring locations, but cow dung is gathered by the women of the family to be mixed with the soil to make the basic building material. The family's ladies undertake all of the plastering and floor care, both in the new home and regularly. To build the roof, native Jowar crops' dried stalks and by-products are tied and woven together. Because of the high summer temperatures in this region, proper ventilation and thermal comfort are a must, and the home was built with this in mind. Typically, the holes are kept to a minimum in order to decrease heat input and to protect against sand storms, which are a regular hazard in the area. Circular plans and lower heights are common in the homes of the inhabitants. Winds may be very strong, especially during the summer months, since the area is in the High Wind Velocity Zone. The circular design allows for the least amount of resistance in the airflow.

Nadeswar Village residents in Assam have mastered coping with flooding and soil degradation. They have used bamboo planting as a preventative measure. While bamboo used to be planted only for commercial reasons, this method saves water and prevents soil and bank erosion while benefiting the local community. Repair and maintenance bunds are less expensive, and river channels do not flood when severe rains occur due to reduced siltation. This locally devised conservation strategy has allowed people to reap the benefits of bamboo's many applications. People in Nandeswar, Assam, rely on bamboo plantations for their livelihood and survival.

Specific local strategies, such as boulder walls in Sikkim for monitoring landslides, slope farming to prevent erosion, glacier farming or grafting to regulate water predictability, and vertical transhumance to diversify agricultural systems, might assist lessen the danger of a natural catastrophe. Kair (Capparis decidua) is a native plant found in India's arid and semi-arid regions. It is a valuable species for weather forecasting because of its capacity to withstand heat and drought. It contributes to the rural economy of western Rajasthan and Gujarat by supplying food, medicinal applications, construction materials, fuel, timber, and environmental sustainability because of its soil binding capability and ability to lower soil alkalinity.

Cyclone prediction in the South Andaman is done by assessing the behaviour of ant colonies, snails, snails, and frogs such as the fisherman of Chouldari village's (Ferrargunj tehsil of South Andaman district in Andaman & Nicobar Islands) indigenous knowledge is important for their livelihood. In Tripura, indigenous knowledge such as the blossoming phenology of night flowering jasmine helps farmers plan their crop planting operations, preventing agricultural hardship. According to one Lepcha traditional legend, she leapt off a cliff when Guras (Rhododendron) refused to marry Uthis (Himalayan Alder). Consequently, the Lepcha people think Himalayan Alder grows on steep slopes or in areas susceptible to landslides. When a new landslide occurs, softwood trees like Himalayan Alder are often planted to stabilise the soil, and after the topsoil has been stabilised, hardwood trees may be planted to transform the landslide-prone region into one that is forested. The mountain (VojoPhu) is holy to the Aka tribe in Arunachal Pradesh. If someone took any forest material from the holy mountain, they feared they would get lost and die from the blood loss. Many natural catastrophes have been averted due to people's strong confidence in the need to conserve the forest resources in the mountain region.

Post-disaster shelter management should use the existing traditional understanding of building materials and technology, proven through time and best suited to the local environment and culture. Technology can be used marginally but judiciously to enhance conventional systems and make them more robust in the face of new dangers, such as climate change. We should value and promote indigenous knowledge through developing local curricula and involving the community in education management. Elderly community members may teach children valuable lessons about good observation, the precautionary measures, and the need of learning about riverine, marine and forest environments. When it comes to human survival, formal education focuses on precise information rather than unspoken knowledge and abilities.

* https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6556961/#CIT0040


More by :  Dr. Sanghamitra Adhya

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