NEW DELHI – ─ The Government of India and the World Bank today signed a $250 million credit agreement under the Jhelum and Tawi Flood Recovery Project for reconstruction and recovery support in flood-affected areas in which public infrastructure and livelihoods were impacted severely. It will also strengthen the capacity of the state government to respond to and better manage natural disasters in the future.
The credit agreement for the project was signed by Raj Kumar, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs on behalf of the Government of India and Onno Ruhl, World Bank Country Director, India on behalf of the World Bank.
The continuous spell of rains in September last year caused Jhelum, Chenab, and Tawi rivers, including their tributaries and many other streams, to flow above the danger mark. Due to the unprecedented heavy rainfall, the catchment areas, particularly the low lying areas were flooded for more than two weeks. The Jhelum River breached its banks in several places. More than a million families were affected, directly or indirectly, and some 300 lives lost. More than 648,000 hectares of agricultural and horticultural land were affected causing huge loss to crops, plantations, and animals.
“The project will focus on restoring critical infrastructure disrupted by the floods using international best practice. The infrastructure will be designed to improve resilience to future flooding and landslide, as well as seismic risk,” said Raj Kumar, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India.
The Jhelum and Tawi Flood Recovery Project will focus on the 20 flood-affected districts, viz. Anantnag, Baramula, Budgam, Bandipora, Ganderbal, Kupwara, Kulgam, Pulwama, Shopian, Srinagar, Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Reasi, Doda, Kishtwar, Ramban, Poonch, Rajauri and Udhampur.
“This region is highly vulnerable to natural disasters that can push millions into poverty. In addition to reconstruction, which includes reconstruction of roads, bridges and public infrastructure, the project will also help the region be better prepared for the future,” saidOnno Ruhl, World Bank Country Director in India. “The challenge is to build smarter, so that the fragile eco-system is not undermined. It will incorporate lessons from previous national and global post-disaster recovery projects – to ensure that recovery is targeted, effective and more resilient to future disasters,” he added.
World Bank assistance has been sought in rebuilding damaged public buildings, such as hospitals, schools, higher education buildings, fire stations, and selected block and district offices, and other important public buildings. It will restore and improve the connectivity disrupted by reconstruction of damaged roads and bridges. The infrastructure will be re-designed to withstand earthquake and floods as per the latest official design guidelines.
Another key component of this project will be to strengthen and reinforce existing weak and vulnerable flood control infrastructure. Investments will primarily include rehabilitation/renovation of storm water pumping stations in several areas.
Apart from reconstruction, the project will focus on disaster risk mitigation. It will strengthen the capacity of government entities in managing disaster risks, enhancing preparedness, and achieving resilient recovery through the preparation of a Hydro-Meteorological Resilience Action Plan with a focus on extreme weather events; River Morphology study for some key rivers impacted by the disaster; and an urban vulnerability assessment among others.
“While reconstruction is a key component, a strong disaster response mechanism plays a crucial role in not only saving lives and livelihoods, but also for achieving sustainable recovery and long-term disaster risk reduction. The project will, therefore, focus on providing technical assistance in localized and sustainable risk mitigation and response mechanisms,” said Saurabh Dani, Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist and the Task Team Leader for the project.
Over the years, the World Bank has significantly increased its support to India for its disaster risk management work. Currently, seven projects are under implementation: National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project I and II, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry Coastal Disaster Risk Reduction Project, Bihar Kosi Flood Recovery Project, Uttarakhand Disaster Recovery Project, Odisha Disaster Recovery Project, Andhra Pradesh Disaster Recovery Project, and the Bihar Kosi Basin Development Project. In addition to reconstruction, these projects are helping improve the disaster risk management capacity both at the state and national levels, including disaster-resilient infrastructure, analytical work, equipment, training, and in particular establishing systems for better risk management through improved forecasting, early warning systems, and multi-hazard risk assessments for planning, and decision support systems.
The project will be funded by credit from the International Development Association (IDA) – the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm with a maturity of 25 years, including a 5 year grace period.