Extreme natural hazards, particularly the hydro-meteorological disasters, are emerging as a cause of major concern in the coastal regions of India and a few other developing countries. These have become more frequent in the recent past, and are taking a heavy toll of life and livelihoods. Low level of technology development in the rural areas together with social, economic and gender inequities enhance the vulnerability of the largely illiterate, unskilled, and resource-poor fishing, farming and landless labour communities. Their resilience to bounce back to pre-disaster level of normality is highly limited. For the planet Earth at crossroads, the imminent threat, however, is from a vicious spiral among environmental degradation, poverty and climate change-related natural disasters interacting in a mutually reinforcing manner. These, in turn, retard sustainable development, and also wipe out any small gains made thereof. To counter this unacceptable trend, the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation has developed a biovillage paradigm and rural knowledge centres for ecotechnological and knowledge empowerment of the coastal communities at risk. Frontier science and technologies blended with traditional knowledge and ecological prudence result in ecotechnologies with pro-nature, pro-poor and pro-women orientation. The rural communities are given training and helped to develop capacity to adopt ecotechnologies for market-driven eco-enterprises. The modern information and communication-based rural knowledge centres largely operated by trained semi-literate young women provide time- and locale-specific information on weather, crop and animal husbandry, market trends and prices for local communities, healthcare, transport, education, etc. to the local communities. The ecotechnologies and time- and locale-specific information content development are need-based and chosen in a ‘bottom-up’ manner. The use of recombinant DNA technology for genetic shielding of agricultural crops for coastal regions against abiotic stress (induced by the water- and weather-related natural disasters), strengthens the foundations of sustainable agriculture undertaken by the resource-poor small farm families.
One contribution of 20 to a Discussion Meeting Issue ‘Extreme natural hazards’.
- © 2006 The Royal Society