Disaster Sub type:
Social cultural based
Local people have a deep understanding of the river morphology and erodibility derived from experiences, both individual and collective. It is closely associated with reasoning and forms the basis of intuition. The constant observation of shifts in river channels, volume of water, intensity of cutting is used wisely in finding suitable areas for the next safe venture. Shift of houses to relatively safer zones as the river starts gradually eroding toward villages is a common practice in Gobargada and Shreeland Tappu. Such shifts have been frequent (1-10 places) within a short distance (200 m -2400, but 7600 m in case of major shifts) in the last 50 years.
River channel shifting possesses a significant risk to life and property within the floodplain. But this is not the case in Shrilanka Tappu and Gobargada, where several shifts of human settlement within a few kilometers (in some cases 100-300m) in the last fifty years have been recorded. We found some houses were just within 100 m of the river and locals were confident about their safety, at least for this year. The traditional form of observation is quite strong and reliable that helps locals stay alert in the flooding season. People accept the fact that rivers are always in motion and the experience shows that they change their direction every 10-12 years. Therefore, the community is always prepared for the worst. Their past experience has equipped them well in using the knowledge shared by the elders to monitor the flow pattern of the river. They have been wisely using the knowledge to constantly monitor the flow direction, water current and annual erodibility that gives a tentative idea in terms of occurrence and extent of the disaster each year. They have their own system of confirming the information they gather, then discussing with the other community members to plan further. The people use the knowledge that has been transferred from the previous generations to prepare relocation and resettlement plans. The people residing nearest to the river or the most vulnerable ones are to shift first, hence, they have their own way of maintaining the shifting cycle.
Caption:Locals at Gobargada preparing to shift