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In August 2008 the Kosi River Dam in South East Nepal overflowed causing the worst flood disaster in India’s Bihar State for 50 years.
Bihar is India’s poorest state with 90 per cent of its 83 million people living in rural communities and approximately one in three families dependant upon their animals for their livelihoods and basic nutrition. Half the population lives below the poverty line.
Spread over 150,000 sq km, the flood displaced 3 million people and their animals, severely affected a further 700,000 families and 700,000 livestock.
The severity of the flood water meant that the Kosi River actually forged a new path across what had previously been safe, fertile and heavily populated farming land. This drastically increased the region’s, the people’s and the animals’ future vulnerability to floods.
WSPA field teams estimated that of the 40,000 cattle and buffalo that died, 40 per cent died quickly through drowning, trauma, electrocution and hypothermia. The rest died more slowly as a result of a lack of emergency veterinary care and timely treatment for body conditions such as pneuomia, fever and disease.
Therefore, in addition to responding to the immediate disaster, WSPA developed and put in place a four-year plan to prevent future flood disasters in the area, delivering a risk reduction project that prepared local communities vulnerable to flood in the Madhepura District in Bihar State.
Working with the local communities WSPA is determining what can be done to help prevent flooding in the future, to enable farmers to protect their livestock and draught animals, and to secure their livelihoods and basic nutrition. Once a successful blueprint plan has been developed it will provide a working model for other communities, vulnerable to flood throughout Bihar State and across India, to view and adopt.
Training local veterinary students at Bihar University in disaster response will help to ensure that in future floods local expert help is at hand and ready to respond.
Our successes, knowledge and expertise in animal welfare disaster management and risk reduction have led to the humanitarian organisation SPHERE collaborating with us in the current disaster unfolding in Leh.
WSPA is committed to the principle of immediate disaster response around the world. We also recognise that where needed, reinforcing communities’ preparedness before and rebuilding afterwards are vital, requiring ongoing aid, assistance, education and finance.