Local approaches to harmonising climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction policies: Lessons from India

Submitted by CDKN Communications Team | published 4th Jun 2014 | last updated 13th Mar 2020


In the face of increasing climate-related disasters, calls for effective climate change adaptation policies are growing worldwide. Yet such policies often fail to gain priority status both nationally and locally and while the most severe impacts of climate change are being felt through major disasters, less dramatic events go unnoticed. Climate change and disaster risk reduction policies diverge from each other at the operational level, with little coordination among ministries and departments.

In the disaster-prone arid zones of Barmer, Western Rajasthan and Leh, Jammu and Kashmir in India, climate change is exacerbating local vulnerability to disasters. The Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS), India, with the support of CDKN, conducted research in Leh and Barmer to determine how best to overcome the challenges of integrating effective disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation into development planning. This brief, Local approaches to harmonising climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction policies: Lessons from India by Anshu Sharma, Sahba Chauhan and Sunny Kumar of SEEDS, describes the team’s research and observations, and suggests how other communities can address similar challenges by using windows of opportunity in post-disaster situations.

Key messages from the report:

  • Climate change has caused drastic changes in the nature, frequency and scale of disasters in India 
and communities in the country’s most arid parts are experiencing 
its worst impacts.
  • Rapid and poorly planned urbanisation has increased the risk of flash floods in some areas, while others suffer the effects of less dramatic ‘invisible disasters’, which go unreported.
  • Disaster and climate change policies are inefficient or ineffective on the ground due to a lack of coordination among different ministries and departments.
  • Past experience in arid zones in India has shown that local knowledge and innovation can help provide effective risk reduction approaches to both disasters and long-term climate change impacts.
  • Local multi-stakeholder platforms have a crucial role in promoting convergence between disaster and climate change policies but to be truly effective, they need to develop mechanisms for sustained action.
  • Special planning and response mechanisms need to be developed at the national level to meet the increasingly unprecedented nature of climate change-induced disasters in India.

Suggested citation

Sharma, A., Chauhan, S., Kumar, S., 2014. Local approaches to harmonising climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction policies: Lessons from India. CDKN Inside Story.

This report is one of CDKN’s Inside stories on climate compatible development.


shonafaceweadapt - climate adaptation.

We have just released our Climate Messages animation from India which you may find useful. We need to get info like this in front of policy makers!



54340dfca5eadannelie-sundin-copy - climate adaptation.

Thank you for sharing Shona! For more information about the ASSAR project which is behind this animation, see this space: https://www.weadapt.org/knowledge-base/assar. And to read specifically about their work in India so far; click here