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Patna diary: On the road to resilience

The urban poor children of Patna are the most vulnerable to the impacts of changing climate and recurring disasters. Children focused city resilience action strategy formed for Patna can help in addressing their vulnerabilities with the effective functioning of the city’s systems, environment, economy and overall well-being of people.

Patna, as many other cities across the country, is under great stress. An expanding area, growing population, coupled with climate change, has forced the city to face issues of water, sanitation, waste management and drainage. And for the children already living in these fragile environments, the impact is even more deadly. Their health, nutrition, education, WASH and protection concerns are rendered even more vulnerable in this fast changing scenario.

But, a resilience strategy, backed by proper finance and capacity building process can stem this tide, through better planning and effective governance. Some of these children focused city resilience actions are addressed below.

Health mantra

A citizen-led monitoring system that includes children, for solid waste management and actively monitoring ‘Local Mohalla Samitis’ must be created for better waste disposal capability in habitated areas. Dumping grounds, particularly those in the low-lying areas of the city, must be phased out and “Safayi Mitras” at ward level appointed. Besides a ban on the use of polythene, a project for plastic recycling should also be implemented. Awareness drives such as “Chakachak Patna” and other school campaigns on waste management will further help the children be an effective participant in keeping their surroundings and the city clean.

Education spark

In light of the growing disasters across the globe, the schools must consider resilient infrastructure under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan norms. Students must develop their very own individual school resilience plan and take up climate resilience initiatives. The formation and implementation of school disaster management, fire safety and evacuation plans with signage, mock drills governed by an active School Management Committee need to be regularly followed in every school. Another simple idea is to have alternate school timings during extreme temperatures (summer and winter) for the benefit of the children and follow special programmes like crash courses for mainstreaming drop out children.

WASH clarity

Children in schools must be made aware of the localized treatment of drinking water that can be followed at home and in schools. Rooftop water collection and storage must be made mandatory for schools and public buildings, to ensure groundwater recharge and rainwater harvesting. Importance of conservation and restoration of natural water bodies and catchment areas, to be encouraged along with the involvement of the community, including children, for wider effect. Schools must ensure separate toilets for girls and boys.

Nutrition power

Schools can promote the creation of nutrition gardens at school and Anganwadi levels to improve the nutrition of the children. Housing societies too can be involved in urban farms in their neighbourhood for healthier food. For improved food security for children of migrant labourers, ration cards to be provided to them. Formation of a “City Health Sanitation and Nutrition Committee”, that involves communities and creates awareness on consuming the available food hygienically and promotes traditional food like Aam Sattu which can be easily prepared at home, will go a long way to reduce food associated vulnerabilities.

Child Protection provisions

A strict enforcement of laws governing child safety and protection (POCSO) is an essential step towards child protection. Linking every child with Aadhaar is another step in this direction. Schools that lie in hazard-prone areas must be shifted to safer locations, even as regular maintenance and repairs of all school buildings are to be ensured during the pre-monsoon period. Regular awareness programmes on child safety, protection issues; campaigns on anti-tobacco and anti-drug, must be ensured for both the children and their parents. Implementation of school safety policies with a special focus on fire evacuation plan and provision of safety equipment at school must be carried out.

Way to go

The types of climate risks confronting children are diverse, ranging from direct physical impacts such as cyclones, storm surges, and extreme temperatures, to impacts on their education, psychological stress and nutritional challenges. The challenge is immense, but it is only when we assess their vulnerability and understand the risks faced, can we move towards resilience planning, which will not only build their capacity to plan for adaptation, but also develop infrastructure systems which will not lead to cascading failures of other elements or related systems and key service deliveries. 

This is the 5th and final blog based on an excerpt from ‘Children-Focused City Resilience Action Strategy for Patna Urban’, a report published by the Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG), supported by UNICEF, India.

You may read here the 
1st blog ‘Patna diary: How a changing climate is making its presence felt ‘ 
2nd blog’ Patna diary: A city under stress’
3rd blog ‘Patna diary: Analysing its urban systems
4th blog ‘Patna diary: Children of the urban poor’