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1) Define vulnerability and highlight the contributing factors to vulnerability.

Answer- Vulnerability- Vulnerability refers to the inability (of a system or a unit) to withstand
the effects of a hostile environment. A window of vulnerability (WoV) is a time frame within
which defensive measures are diminished, compromised or lacking.

In relation to hazards and disasters, vulnerability is a concept that links the relationship that
people have with their environment to social forces and institutions and the cultural values that
sustain and contest them. “The concept of vulnerability expresses the multi-dimensionality of
disasters by focusing attention on the totality of relationships in a given social situation which
constitute a condition that, in combination with environmental forces, produces a disaster”.

Factors contributing to Vulnerability

The widening gap between rich and poor, rural and urban incomes and hence the disparity in
living standards can be witnessed in the flood plains of developing countries. For small
landowners with marginal, degraded land, frequent flooding can decrease the returns from
cultivating the land, thus reducing food security. The rural poor who depend on incomes from
farming or other agricultural activities, with no reserves to help them them get back on their feet
after a disturbance or pay for basic needs, are often obliged to migrate to the cities and are
driven into debt. Newcomers to an urban setting, not being able to afford safe locations in the
city, are obliged to settle in makeshift dwellings in informal settlements on marginal lands near
the river or other drainages where they are extremely vulnerable to flooding.

The principal livelihoods of communities living in rural flood plains are mainly farming and
fishing. However, recurring floods threaten their stability of the their livelihoods owing to the loss
of farm products or limited access to the markets for their products in the absence of adequate
transport infrastructure. The landless poor, working as hired labourers, particularly during long
flood seasons, have trouble finding jobs to meet their basic needs.

Cultural beliefs:-
Some cultural beliefs and fatalistic attitudes contribute to a community’s vulnerability. In some
societies, natural disasters are considered to be acts of God and taken as if there is nothing
human beings could do to prevent hazards from turning into disasters. Lack of faith in the social
system and lack of confidence in the ability to manage flood risks manifests itself in resistance
to any such change.

Unequal distribution of resources and access to human rights can lead to conflicts and
discontent, and in turn, the deterioration of social systems. For example, individuals who are
denied the right to freedom of association and access to information may be precluded from
discussing issues related to flood preparedness and mitigation planning, receiving essential
fundamental services and taking preventive measures to protect themselves from flood
hazards.In areas where flood diversion works are in place it may so happen that flood water are
redirected into areas where poorer sections of the society with less political influence settle.

In societies where the decision-making power resides solely with the men of the family, ignoring
the wisdom and experience of women and denying or limiting them the adequate access to
knowledge and capacity development schemes, which otherwise may be available to men, can
deny the society the use of such human resources and contribute to women’s vulnerability in
terms of personal security, health and well being, economic security and livelihoods.

Weaker social groups:-

In a society made up of various social groups, the needs of each group differ. Children, women,
elderly and disabled people have unique group features that may add to their vulnerabilities in
particular situations, such as during evacuation, sheltering, relief distribution and the
rehabilitation process.

4) Discuss various models of Vulnerability Analysis.

There are three models of vulnerability applied by disaster management specialists:
• Capacities and Vulnerability Analysis (CVA)
• Pressure and Release/Access (P/RA)
• Sustainable Livelihoods (SL)

A) Capacities and Vulnerability Analysis: This model was developed in the 1980s
and was initially used to relate relief programmes to developmental objectives. It uses a simple
matrix of three-dimensional study to probe a community’s vulnerability. Pertinent questions
asked in the context of each specific dimension are as follows:

(a) Physical/Material dimension: Poverty and vulnerability form a vicious cycle in that
each reinforces the other. The solution is to pull people out of the vicious circle of poverty by
income and employment generation schemes to increase their coping/restorative capacity in the
event of disasters. The question asked is, what productive resources, skills and hazards exist?
The attempt is to find out the correlation that exists between the aforesaid three variables and
planning accordingly, to augment the skills and offset

(b) Social/Organisational Dimension: The question asked is, what are the relationships among
people and how are they organised? The question is relevant to the extent that bonds of
cohesion/ discord in communities determine their resilience and their restorative capacity during
disasters. For example, communities in Gujarat tackled the earthquake better than they did the
communal riots. These are obviously two different kinds of disasters but ethnic cleavages or the
nature of social capital in each case proved to be the determining factor. The former exhibited
social capital, while the latter, negative social capital.

(c) Motivational /Attitudinal Dimension: The pertinent question is, how a community
perceives its ability to enforce change and how much it believes change is possible,
determined for instance, in the case of developing countries like India by the confidence people
have in the administration. The function of political communication accredited to political parties
is significant in this context, since communication between elected
representatives and the people is an important factor in building required confidence among
people in the official agencies. The limitation of this approach is that it is general and
overarching and may not tackle sufficiently, the specific vulnerabilities in each case.

B) Pressure/Release Access Models: These models developed in the 1990s,

emphasised human/ man made aspects of disasters. This model takes contextual factors into
account for assessing vulnerability. Vulnerability is perceived as moving through three
successive levels in a linear continuum as root causes, dynamic pressures and unsafe
conditions. Root causes refer to basic issues like iniquitous social order, consequent lack of
access to power center and resources, oligarchic nature of society, where few own most
resources and also arrogate power. Root causes when acted upon dynamic
pressures intensify existing vulnerabilities. This approach points to fundamental issues,
which need to be addressed at macro levels in order to address the underlying vulnerabilities.
Dynamic pressures refer to factors such as urbanisation, and lack of training and education
opportunities for communities etc. The third factor is unsafe conditions, which is a resultant of
the two primary factors, that is, root causes and dynamic pressures. Unsafe conditions refer to
factors such as unsafe locations, lack of health facilities, uncertain employment, dependence on
moneylenders, etc. In developing countries, the poorest sectors of the society in general and
urban poor in particular are more vulnerable because they perforce settle in inadequate areas,
and generally receive insufficient state assistance. They are forced to build their dwellings on
unstable land that is subject to flooding or landslides, or is in close proximity to dangerous
industrial activity. This is particularly true of large cities, where the poor constitute the most
vulnerable social category.

C) Sustainable Livelihoods (SL) Model: Like the P/RA model, the sustainable
livelihoods model puts livelihood at the center of study for strategy formulation. Livelihood
choices are made in a situation of vulnerability. The contextual factors of livelihood strategies
have therefore to be kept into account and studied. Therefore, rather than categorise people
into groups such as farmers or fisher folk, the SL approach seeks to understand the many
factors determining peoples’ choice of livelihoods to find ways to reinforce the positive aspects
of such ‘choice’ and eliminate the negative influences. A person’s livelihood is sustainable
if/when he or she can cope with and recover from
stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance their capabilities and assets both now and in the
future while not undermining the natural resource base. Policies institutions and processes
impact upon livelihood assets (physical, social, human natural and financial capital, which
people utilise to achieve positive livelihood outcomes (good health, access to services, political
enfranchisement sustainable use of natural resource base, heightened self- esteem. It aims to
enable poor people to improve their access to assets, the core
of livelihood strategies, and give them a fair opportunity to choose independently and
adapt to changing circumstances.

5) Write a brief note on local adaptation strategies to reduce vulnerability.

Answer- Local Adaptation Strategies
Populations inhabiting hazard prone areas adapt with extreme events, using their own
capabilities, skills, talents, knowledge and technologies inherited from their ancestors and learnt
through experience. These strategies have the legitimacy of tradition and culture. In Orissa,
which is one of the cyclone prone areas in India, in a study entitled “Community Based Disaster
Preparedness in Orissa” (2000), it has been highlighted that the local community has developed
its own coping strategies to deal with cyclones. These can be better understood by the people
and can prove to be beneficial in minimising the loss of
life and property from cyclones. Some of these points are as follows:

1) People wrap all available seeds, rice paddy and bury it underground when they
move for safer places.
2) Some families wrap all their important papers, documents and other valuables and
bury it underground before leaving their houses.
3) Houses are constructed on higher plinth so that water does not enter the house.
4) If the clouds move northward it is an indication of possible flood over the next three or four
5) Some people can look at the colour of the clouds and their formation and predict
6) People grow banana trees around houses as banana stems are used for floating. Something
similar to a boat is made out of banana stems and is used as a barge.
7) Banana leaves are used as fodder during cyclones and floods.
8) People identify nearby villages and inform them beforehand for their temporary
migration and shelter in those villages in case of floods.
9) People store foodstuff, dry food, coconut, pumpkins, etc., to be used immediately
after the disaster.
10) Beating of drums for dissemination of warning is a regular practice among indigenous
11) The continuously blowing wind from east indicates that the cyclone is approaching. If within
two hours, the wind starts becoming hot, the indication is that the intensity of cyclone will
12) If the wind changes its direction from east to south and gets cooler, it indicates that the
cyclone has changed its direction.
13) Barking of village dogs without any provocation during daytime is indicative of an unusual
event like a cyclone in the immediate future.
14) If dogs start scratching the ground it is an indication of impending hazard.
15) Fishermen get substantive catch of a particular fish prior to the cyclone, which they normally
are unable to catch.
16) The fishermen nets catch a particular small plantation, which they never get otherwise. This
also indicates that a cyclone is approaching.
17) A strange and rather thundering sound from the sea for two or three days indicates
that a cyclone is about to strike.
18) If the clouds move fast from North to South, there is a likelihood of a cyclone.
19) Birds in large quantity flock together and fly from the North to South, give the
indication of an approaching cyclone.
20) People don’t plant big trees near their houses to escape injuries from falling during
21) People untie the animals to save their lives.
22) Animals are used to swim across rivers during floods/ cyclones.
23) Sharing of food after the disaster is a survival strategy.
24) Community kitchen is a survival strategy that is now being officially taken up by
25) Maintenance of as much hygiene and sanitation as possible is an imminent response
26) Distribution of food during relief first to children, then to elderly people and women
and the remaining to the rest is the usual sequence followed.
27) People from other nearby villages not affected by the cyclone, get together to help
the victims.


8) Describe the significance of planning with particular reference to Disaster Prevention,

Preparedness and Mitigation.
Since vulnerability to disasters and development are integral concerns, planning for disaster
prevention and mitigation can no longer be overlooked. There has been an increase in the
number of natural disasters over the past years. Losses have been compounded because
of uncontrolled urbanisation and population growth, which have increased significantly the
losses from disasters. As per the United Nations, in 2001 alone, natural disasters of medium to
high range caused at least 25,000 deaths around the world, more than double the previous
year’s and economic losses of around US $ 36 billion. These figures would be much higher if
the consequences of the many smaller and unrecorded disasters, which caused significant
losses at the local community level, were to be taken into account.

Devastations in the aftermath of powerful earthquakes that struck Gujarat, El Salvador and
Peru; floods that ravaged many countries in Africa, Asia and elsewhere; droughts that plagued
Central Asia including Afghanistan, Africa and Central America; the cyclone in Madagascar and
Orissa and floods in Bolivia have been significant global events in the recent times. However,
what is disturbing is the knowledge that these trends of destruction and devastation are on the
rise. India has been traditionally vulnerable to disasters, with 60% of landmass prone to
earthquakes of various intensities; over 40 million hectares prone to floods; about 8% of total
area prone to cyclones and 68% to drought. In 1999-2000 decade, about 4344 million people
lost lives and 30 million people were
affected every year besides tremendous accounted/unaccounted loss of private, community and
public assets (Ministry of Home Affairs -Status Report on Disaster Management, August, 2004).

Also with the emergence of terrorism and increased possibility of other man made
disasters like fires, chemical spills etc. potential areas for resource allocation and
expenditure have multiplied. There is also a realisation of the fact that disasters retard
development, setting it back by several decades. Hence, for protection of capital assets and
preservation of human resource, disaster mitigation policy is an imperative requirement.

9) “Vulnerability can be reduced due to State Protection”. Analyse.

10) Examine the reasons for institutional and infrastructural vulnerability.

Answer- Institutions can be considered as social tools for the management of vulnerability.
Institutions also minimise vulnerability and conflicts and enhance sustainable management of
resources. The level of institutions contributes to mitigate the vulnerability. The more assets
people control, the less vulnerable they are and the greater is their capacity to successfully
cope with risks and stresses. Despite the rapid growth of India’s industrial and service sectors
over the past decade,
agriculture continues to be the dominant factor in the GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

With respect to infrastructure provision, India’s regional disparities in agriculture productivity and
growth can be partially traced to differences in the levels of public investment in infrastructure
for agriculture, particularly investments in irrigation technologies and rural credit. In such areas
like Punjab, Haryana and Maharashtra, farmers and people are more easily coping with
disasters. However, poor regions like Orissa and Bihar in respect to infrastructure are prone to
disasters. Regional disparities in terms of infrastructure development have persisted in India
over a long period of time. It could be analysed with reference to the pre-reform and the post
reform periods. In the pre- reform period, balanced regional development was identified as a
development objective and the same was provided for in the five-year plans. The
instrumentality of achieving such balance was the public sector, which functioned with the
specific instruction of diversifying operations so as to provide for balanced regional

For example banks were required to encourage rural credit and promote
development in backward areas by providing concessional credit facilities to farmers and
investing in public infrastructure. The Institutional Finance Infrastructure was set up for the
express purpose of stimulating growth in backward areas through branch expansion and
availability of cheap credit. Liberalisation has effected a complete change of stance on the part
of the government in that the objective has been neutralised almost in effect.

Privatisation of banks and operation of banks on the profit criteria would mean different criteria
for mergers and acquisition, investment decisions and location of banks.
Industries were accordingly distributed across states, for equity in regional development though
not always in compliance with commercial norms. The licensing regimes regulated capacity
creation in states by governing norms for setting up enterprises in states, which
are the engines of growth. There was a shortfall in efficiency but some amount of loss was to be
borne for the wider objective of balanced regional development. This objective has been
forsaken in the post- reform period (Kumar, 2004). The ninth plan did allude to it but did not
follow it up in any substantial measure as became evident in the mid term review. The
mechanism has almost been dismantled as the tenth plan has refrained from announcing any
specific policy in this regard though ‘consideration’ is to be given
to sectoral growth needs. As is evident the objective has subsequently been seriously
compromised with most states showing retarding indices. Multi- dimensional institutional
mechanism that existed prior to the reform period for effective intervention in various policy
areas for the objective has almost been dismantled. Central intervention has been limited to
peripheral investment in central public infrastructure and centrally sponsored schemes for
agriculture and rural development. The two areas are primarily state subjects
in which central intervention is not so meaningful.

There is need for planned institutional

framework, which cannot be arranged without a paradigm shift in economic policies for
development. Determining vulnerability of local institutions and regions are access to natural
resources like energy, food and water, access to productive resources for income generation,
to social infrastructures like education and health and the availability of adequate
institutional arrangements in the form of panchayats (local government) and good
governance on the part of the state machinery. Thus there is need to focus on
vulnerabilities from an economic, social, ecological and institutional perspective in an
integrated way. On the basis of theoretical and empirical studies, it is argued that for the larger
purpose of reducing poverty redistributive policy is imperative. The argument differs with the
World Bank position that redistributive policy induces political instability (White, 2001).
Vulnerability not only depends on the exposure to hazard but also on the coping capacity of the
people. Building both the social and financial capital for the poor could be the best way to
increase the coping capacity of the nation and reduce overall vulnerability of people. This could
happen because social, economic and political aspects vary from one region to another. Issues
such as property rights, access to resources, technology and
credit, create social vulnerability to disasters, causing individuals and societies to cope and
adapt differently to these changes. It would be pertinent to discuss the role of the civil society
here. The non-government organisations have steppe in the space left vacant by state
institutions for development purposes. There is robust activity on their part in relief and
rehabilitation, post disaster, and development tasks like poverty alleviation, gender justice, child
labour etc.
Their role needs to be appreciated in the context of globalisation in that the operation of non-
government organisations has acquired an international dimension. Non-government
organisations are operating as a network of international agencies. Consequently,
understanding vulnerability is being attempted on an international
scale in that agencies like the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and
other United Nations organisations are involved in study and analysis of vulnerabilities across
the globe on the basis of the Human Development Index (HDI).