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Report of the National Workshop on Small-scale Fisheries, Cyclone Ockhi and Disaster Risk Management 29 to 30 May, 2018, Kerala, India
  • :2018
  • :Report prepared by Ahana Lakshmi
  • :66
  • :978 93 80802 72 5

National Workshop on Small-scale Fisheries, Cyclone Ockhi and Disaster Risk Management was held on 28 to 29 May, 2018 at Thiruvananthapuram. The workshop was organised by the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) Trust with the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The workshop was attended by a large number of distinguished participants, including fishworker organisations, government officials, academics, non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations and the disaster affected community. Representatives from FAO and the Bay of Bengal Programme Inter-Governmental Organisation (BOBP-IGO) also attended the programme. On 29 November 2017, a deep depression, detected in the Indian Ocean southwest of Sri Lanka, rapidly intensified into a cyclonic storm off the coast of Tamil Nadu and Kerala and the Union Territory of Lakshadweep Islands. Cyclone Ockhi, as it was named, took the life of a number of fishers, injured many and destroyed fishing vessels and gear.

The United Nations Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, which India has adopted, aims to achieve a substantial reduction in the loss of lives due to disasters, through the coordinated efforts of national and international agencies, including the central and state governments, civil society and the larger community to build resilience to natural and man-made hazards, including cyclones. The approach of Disaster Risk Management (DRM), central to the Sendai Framework, combines mitigation, prevention and preparedness, with response and recovery across institutions of government, private sector and civil society.

India's own Disaster Management Act, 2005 was a response to the unprecedented damage caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the gaps it revealed in the country's preparedness for dealing with natural disasters. Although national and state disaster management authorities were set up and plans formulated, their success has been mixed in the face of recurring cyclones along India's Bay of Bengal coast. Towards developing new approaches to disaster preparedness, the 2013 FAO Guidelines for the Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector on Damage and Needs Assessments in Emergencies discuss the need for assessing disaster impact and for developing effective disaster response in an emergency situation. The 2014 Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (the SSF Guidelines) discuss applying the "relief-development continuum" concept to emergency response and disaster preparedness, and the "building back better" concept to relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and recovery, especially to reduce vulnerabilities to potential future threats.

ICSF Trust, with financial assistance from the FAO, undertook a study of the impacts of Cyclone Ockhi with the following objectives:

  • To assess the impacts of the Cyclone Ockhi and the emergency at the institutional and community level;

  • To review central and state policies and plans to cope with cyclones to determine how loss of lives and livelihoods of the fishing communities can be minimized, in line with the SSF Guidelines;

  • To evaluate, within the framework of a human rights-based approach, the state's presence in the fisheries sector and its preparedness to respond to cyclones; and

  • To suggest solutions to challenges in addressing particular disasters and the possible linkages between various institutions and the fishing community, especially in relation to disaster preparedness and fisheries management.

The study assessed the response to Cyclone Ockhi, both at the institutional and community level, reviewed DM and DRM strategies adopted by concerned actors and examined if the loss of lives could have been minimized by a more coordinated institutional response. In keeping with the internationally recognized DRM approach, the study reviewed the various mitigation and relief plans in place at the central, state and district level and their effectiveness. Considering that so many fatalities occurred at sea, the study looked into fisheries management issues of relevance to cyclone preparedness.