Uttarakhand needs smarter projects, World Bank's India head says

Ruhl said disasters, like the one in Uttarakhand, can roll back decades of development and are a fundamental threat to economic development and fight against poverty.

Disasters, like the one in Uttarakhand, can roll back decades of development and are a fundamental threat to economic development and fight against poverty.
NEW DELHI: Rain and flash floods have pushed back development works in Uttarakhand by decades and the challenge at the moment is to build smarter projects without impacting the fragile environment of the hilly region, said World Bank's country director Onno Ruhl.

"In Uttarakhand, the challenge is to build smarter, so that they do not undermine the fragility of the environment," he told PTI after the approval of a $250 million credit for the rehabilitation work in the state by the World Bank's board in Washington on Friday.

Ruhl said disasters, like the one in Uttarakhand, can roll back decades of development and are a fundamental threat to economic development and fight against poverty.

He said the project will focus on both reconstruction and disaster preparedness in the state which was hit hard in June by rain and landslides that killed 580 people.

"This project 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," Ruhl said.

He said the assistance will help the government of Uttarakhand with immediate relief efforts by building houses and public infrastructure, including small roads and bridges.
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"A very important part of the project will be to help the state be better prepared for the future," he added.

India had sought assistance from multilateral agencies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for undertaking rehabilitation work in Uttarakhand. ADB, too, is expected to finalise its assistance package.

He said the programme will put in place information and communication systems to give early warning to people likely to be impacted and they can be warned through SMS.

"We all know winter is quite harsh in these parts and so it was important for us to get the project going and help shelter people before winter hits them."
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Differentiating cloudburst from a cyclone, he said preparedness is critical in Uttarakhand like situation.

"We had a bit of a test of how effective we can be recently in Odisha when the Cyclone Phailin hit ... in a cyclone one can see it coming over the sea for many days but that's not the case for a cloudburst. We need to have better and detailed meteorological information."
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Ruhl added that, "In a mountain area, given the less chances of predictability, it has to be even faster than in the case of a cyclone. I think that's a clear target for us to focus on ... That's difficult but not impossible. Other countries have learned how to do this."
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