Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

UPSC Civils Daily Mains Question 12th June-2021

Examine the need for integrating the local knowledge of the people with modern technologies to improve disaster risk reduction. What are the challenges posed by it?

Indigenous knowledge systems have existed as part of human life from yesteryear and this practice is important as it has shaped how people interact with their environment. It has been observed that local knowledge and practices to improve disaster risk reduction have grown since the 1970s. As such, this knowledge gained recognition and prominence in the 1990s in the field of disaster risk reduction and in issues associated with climate change. However, despite the recognition of the important role that indigenous knowledge plays in reducing the risk of disasters and adapting to climate change, this knowledge has not featured prominently in disaster policy and science.

The need to mainstream indigenous traditional knowledge and link it with modern technologies:

Local people have certain capacities that have evolved over centuries and this capacity and knowledge have been tested over time and proven to be sustainable and effective in both reducing disasters and managing hazards. · As far as the management of disasters is concerned, communities have also relied on their indigenous knowledge to minimise the impact of disasters. · Those communities that have embraced indigenous knowledge have managed to save lives and property from various types of natural disasters. · For instance, in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, indigenous knowledge helped communities to survive the disaster. · Indigenous knowledge systems present many alternatives to governments, scientists, practitioners and local communities on how they should approach different disasters. · Indigenous knowledge can empower members of a community to take leading roles in activities aimed at reducing disaster risk. · For instance, mixed cropping is a form of indigenous knowledge which can be applied to improve the yield of various crops, so that alternative crops are available for consumption if other crops fail. · A community that possesses vast indigenous knowledge of disaster risk reduction is able to take care of itself and also able to deal with disasters with minimum external support.

Through the use of their indigenous knowledge, people can deal with different kinds of hazards and disasters before the arrival of disaster risk reduction practitioners. · Such knowledge can be used to predict the occurrence of disasters and their impact so that proper interventions are adopted. · According to the UNISDR (2015), the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, adopted by the Third United Nations World Conference, advocates for the use of indigenous peoples’ knowledge and practices to complement scientific knowledge in disaster risk assessment. · The framework recognises that indigenous peoples, through their experience and traditional knowledge, provide an important contribution to the development and implementation of plans and mechanisms, including early warning (UNISDR 2015). · Therefore, indigenous knowledge is a vital component of disaster risk reduction.

Challenges: · A lack of clarity of what constitutes indigenous knowledge has not helped its applicability. · Various scholars have differing views of what indigenous knowledge entails. · it is not wholly trusted by many in the communities, as well as disaster risk reduction practitioners. Scepticism by disaster risk reduction practitioners regarding the use of indigenous knowledge arises as a result of the fact that such knowledge lacks documentation. · The uses of indigenous means of survival have not always proved to be sustainable. This suggests that indigenous knowledge may not always be a right intervention for all hazards and disasters affecting human communities. · The knowledge may be wrong or even harmful to people. This implies that at times practices based on indigenous knowledge may exacerbate a community’s vulnerability to disasters.

Indigenous knowledge, if given space, would continue to play a significant role for local communities and practitioners in disaster risk reduction. If anything, local people should be enabled to actively participate in decision-making processes at regional, national and local levels.

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