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  Archives » Rebuilding Livelihood - Effect of Flood on SEWA member
 
The whole of Gujarat was preparing for a draught. To everyone's surprise, it rained aplenty in the beginning of June ‘04. However, the monsoon was playing hide and seek with the people of Gujarat. From June 7-9th it seemed that an early monsoon had set in. Later, however, not even a single drop was visible and farmers worried as they had already sowed costly seeds.

In view of the perceived draught, all talukas, districts, government administrators, village people and organizations were busy working out ways to fight the draught.
   
 
   
Bayad
 
Bayad
 
On 28th July rains started pouring heavily on the soil of Gujarat. Water of the entire year poured from the skies within 10 days. But who could have be ready for such an unexpected and ceaseless downpour?

We started contacting the district offices to inquire about the current position of SEWA's members. Initially, we asked about the rainfall, after which we inquired anxiously about the safety of SEWA's members.
   
 
   
Demoi
 
Demoi
   
 
To begin with, we received news about Surat's floods. At the same time, Kavitaben Rathwa, president of Sukhi Mahila SEWA Cooperative, called from Bodeli saying, “River Heran is overflowing and houses are submerged in water up to the ceiling. We've already visited 18 villages and have seen tremendous damage being caused to houses and crops. We've also found out how many SEWA members have insurance.”
 
   
 
   
Bodeli
 
Bodeli
   
 
SEWA's district co-coordinator and three organizers rushed to Bodeli.

As if this was not enough, we got a message from the Self Employed Farmers Cooperative from Bayad taluka of Sabarkantha district that the villages have met with disaster due to the cracking of a lake dam. The coordinator of Sabarkantha district immediately rushed to Bayad.
 
 
   
Bodeli
 
Bodeli
   
 
SEWA organizers and the district association sat down together to work out solutions to discuss the gravity of the situation caused by floods in Gujarat.

Meanwhile due to the incessant downpour, damages continued to mount in villages. Houses were broken, walls were fractured, and the crops were spoilt. Mosquitoes and insects multiplied in numbers, resulting in the proliferation of fever, cold and malaria in local villages. Fungal infections also became widespread.
   
 
   
Bayad
 
Bayad
   
  Flood Damage

Adivasis inhabit the river banks of Heran and Orsan in Pavi Jetpur and Sankheda talukas of Vadodara district. This area is also known as the eastern stretch. Heran meets Orsan which also meets river Narmada. These rivers originate from Madhya Pradesh.

"Since our rivers are embanked, water does flow in the village, every monsoon, but not much", say the people inhabiting the river banks.
   
 
   
Bodeli
 
Bodeli
   
 
This year, however, the river Heran was flooded. Around 6AM, while families were just waking up, water started flowing into the village households. People rushed out of their houses and climbed the mountains. The water finally receded at around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. Within 10 hours, the entire village was wiped out.
   
 
   
Bodeli
 
Bodeli
   
 
Mora Dungri is a village in Pavi Jetpur. Here, the Nayakas and the Tadvis, who are the poorest of the poor, live on the riverside thanks to a government  funded scheme called Sardar Aawas.  Early in the morning Mora Dungri was flooded As a result, six children were carried away by the water and drowned and the houses of the Sardar Aawas scheme fell like a pack of cards. Urgent reevaluation of the houses is required.
   
 
   
Bodeli
 
Bayad
   
 
55 villages of Pavi Jetpur situated on the banks of River Heran have also been adversely affected by floods. About 400 houses have been washed out and 7000 families have been severely hit by the floods. Crops of maize, cotton, and pulses have also been destroyed. Presently, people from neighboring villages are providing aid for food.
   
 
   
Bodeli
 
Bayad
   
  SEWA has also initiated immediate relief in flood-hit areas. Dry khichdi, biscuits, tarpaulin, and mattresses have been distributed in 20 villages of the Pavi Jetpur taluka.

During relief distribution, people of less affected villages expressed, 'We have been saved by God. But our neighboring village has been severely hit by floods. Please conduct relief distribution work in that village.' It is amazing to see that humanity is still alive.
   
 
   
Bodeli
 
Bayad
   
  Bayad, Modasa, and Meghraj talukas of Sabarkantha district have been severely flood-hit. On 1st August, men of Demai village of Bayad taluka were engrossed in watching a cricket match. Suddenly, they saw water engulfing their houses. They immediately rushed out of their houses to save their lives. Unfortunately, they couldn't save any household items.

A road and a canal were constructed in the village of Takhatpura this very year. Since the village is situated at a level lower than that of the road and the canal, flood-water flowed down to submerge the entire village.
   
 
   
Bodeli - Dhakhrol
 
Bayad
   
  In Bayal Dhankrol village of Modasa taluka, heavy rains accompanied by a cyclone began at 5 in the evening. Leaders of SEWA say that they shiver at the thought of that day. Within 17 minutes the entire village was destroyed by the cyclonic winds and rains. The very next day, the district coordinator and the leaders of the Farmers Cooperative reached Bayal Dhankrol to inquire about the safety of SEWA members.      
   
 
According to Shardaben, leader of Aamoda, 'A group of 50 members of SEWA from Aamoda prepared tea and breakfast and reached Bayal Dhankrol at 8 in the morning. As soon as we reached, the resident women started crying terribly.  In fact one woman had a 4 day old baby and she was worried about how her child would survive. Later, however, all the women felt more relieved, since we stood by them during these trying times.

Similarly Sharmishthaben, the leader of Farmers Cooperative commented, “As soon as I heard about the seriousness of the situation, I decided to go to Bayal Dhankrol. Earlier, I had gone there to train the women for organization and had encouraged them to become members.” Sharmishthaben has been persistently visiting the members of SEWA in Bayal Dhankrol. The government and other organizations that visit the village for relief distribution are kept well-informed by her.
 
   
  Scientific reasons of what happened during the disaster are worth knowing as a similar calamity had occurred in three different villages on three consecutive days. For instance, why and what changes occurred in the air pressure and such other factors need to be researched so that a similar disaster can be detected earlier.

40 villages have been flood-hit and 325 houses have been destroyed in the district of Sabarkantha. Shantaben Vasava of Sathamba village says, “At 4 in the morning, rains started pouring inside my home. Bricks were falling out from the walls. My husband was injured in the back, as a brick fell on him. But I am happy that my daughter who is expecting a baby is safe and sound.”
 
 
The elders of Bayal Dhankrol say that they haven't experienced anything this grave in the last 50 years. According to the Patels of the village, clouds enveloped by cyclonic winds came down and crashed heavily on earth. Lightening also hit the farms, killing cattle and other livestock.. People also feel that Hanuman Dada is cross on them, since the Hanuman temple, inclusive of its flag, has remained intact despite the disaster.

About 75 houses have been grounded by floods in the districts of Kheda and Anand. This however, did not deter SEWA's members and Kheda district leaders from rushing to help people in Pavi Jetpur. Moreover, the collector's office had given a prior warning to the villages located on the river banks of Kheda district and hence these villages were saved from further loss of life and goods.
   
  Moving Forward

We discussed this issue with SEWA's women members. Instantaneously, the members stated that women in the villages should be encouraged to become members of savings and/or insurance cooperatives and the employment security fund. While savings will help members procure loans, insurance will come of help in the time of calamities. Moreover, if members invest in employment security, one would not have to take credit for agricultural purposes. People in every disaster affected village resolutely decided to join these cooperatives.

Incessant rains have produced filth and slush in the villages. During the relief distribution meetings, we formed a village development cooperative in the presence of the Sarpanch. The cooperative is responsible for village cleanliness and sanitation, water seepage, paving ways in lanes, and agricultural tasks for rehabilitation of the village. It is definitely not the idea of people to simply seek relief, but to re-establish the village for further development. Subsequently, the village development cooperative has begun to meet the village requirements of seeds, fertilizers, agricultural tools, and vaccinations for animals.
   
 
Key Learnings

We got to learn the lesson of genuine social service and leadership from SEWA's members and leaders of Vadodara, Sabarkantha, Kheda, and Anand districts. Despite the fact that their houses have been devastated by floods, they are committed to their tasks of relief distribution and daily surveying in the villages. SEWA is proud of her members and leaders.

While some regions of Gujarat have seen devastatingly heavy rains, other parts of the state were eagerly waiting for a few drops of rain. Since 6th August, Kutch, Surendranagar, and Patan districts of Gujarat have witnessed the initiation of   monsoon. Tanks built for the conservation of water were filled to the brim in these districts. Lakes and check dams constructed under the water resources development were also full of water. 3000 household tanks in Patan and Surendranagar were filled too. In addition, 25 wells were recharged in Gandhinagar and Patan.
   
  For SEWA, it is crucial to get a distinct picture of the position of 14 districts in Gujarat and subsequently campaign for savings, insurance, employment security, water seepage, waste disposal, and conservation of water.
One learns from this experience that information, education, and communication programs are crucial to positively reduce the adverse effects of a disaster.

   
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Self Employed Women's Association
SEWA Reception Centre, Opp. Victoria Garden, Bhadra, Ahmedabad - 380 001. India.
Phone : 91-79-25506444 / 25506477 / 25506441, Fax : 91 - 79 - 25506446, Email :mail@sewa.org
     
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