- They promoted awareness on disaster
- Built better infrastructure
- Promoted alternate livelihood options
GAIL came up with a project to better prepare Indian communities in the face of the devastation caused by natural disasters.
GAIL helps Indian communities rebuild and protect lives and livelihoods against natural disasters
In June 2013, a multi-day cloudburst – an extreme amount of precipitation in a short period of time – caused devastating floods and landslides in the Indian State of Uttarakhand. Affecting millions of people, and with over 4,000 people dead, this was one of the worst natural disasters the country had seen.
Government and agencies and NGOs provided immediate relief, largely focused on rebuilding the region. What was missing however was averting such calamities – or reducing their adverse consequences – in the future.
At the time when the community was still recovering from the trauma, GAIL (India) Limited came up with Project Shrijan – meaning ‘creation’ – to better prepare the communities in the ten disaster-affected villages of Rudraprayag.
To do this, it promoted awareness on disaster, built better infrastructure and promoted alternate livelihood options, in a bid to reduce loss – both in lives and livelihoods – that might arise in future scenarios.
Training communities with the right skills
Skills training gave extra income, even in the absence of traditional occupations, and psychological support and counselling was given to those in trauma. Rainwater harvesting and organic farming were encouraged to conserve resources too.
Plus, services like an emergency helpline and disaster response vehicles would better help the community in distress.
With women sharing a significant amount of workload – the disaster often making them head of the families in many households – it was important to involve them at every stage, including through skill development programmes and participating in disaster preparedness exercises.
The success from the project is twofold: the impact in the community; and the positive image employees have of the company.
To help people make a living, 85 training programmes were organized and 28 new skills were introduced to 7,614 people. Nearly half (45 per cent) of people got involved in income generation activities (compared to 20 per cent before the project) and 36 self-help groups were included in the project, with all members being trained in financial literacy.
In Village Ginwala, Santoshi Devi was one of the trainees. “We were taught how to escape and also how to help if someone was injured.
“I also feel comfortable and confident in handling my money. Project Shrijan has connected us to the mainstream economy and empowered us to make better financial decisions.”
A dozen disaster resistant households were constructed, three mid-term emergency shelters are under construction, catering for 15 villages.
People were also given livelihood support through livestock enterprise. Ten units of cattle were given along with insurance, increasing monthly income by 1.7 times. Seeds were given to villages to grow their own vegetables, saving £71,000 over a year, while distribution of fodder plants meant that 163 women reduced the time travelled for fodder for livestock from 665 hours to 187 hours.
“A few things stood out during the evaluation of the project. First, was the people's participation and involvement in the project,” says Dr. Seema Sharma, an independent evaluator at the University of Delhi.
“The second was the regular monitoring of the project by the two partners, namely GAIL and Manava Bharati Society. The third aspect which impressed us and which is also the most important aspect of the project was the way the project was designed. The design ensured that the interventions at the level of individuals, families and communities had a synergising effect with each level complementing and supporting the others.”
For employees, the project has been a greater motivator – perhaps in part due to the impressive outcomes, and in part to the organic and hand made products they have access to at reasonable rates – as well as generating greater trust towards the organisation.