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Building resilience to disasters in the Mahanadi delta and Kosi-Gandak floodplains, India

In the Mahanadi River delta and Kosi-Gandak floodplains we restore wetlands and improve water management to reduce the risk of disasters. With our partners we enhance the ability of vulnerable communities to adapt to climate change and create more secure and sustainable livelihoods. This provides a safer environment from floods and improves the capacity of these communities to bounce back if they do occur.

Project Description:

The Problem

Alterations in natural water flows, environmental damage and climate change have increased the frequency and intensity of weather-related disasters for communities living in the Mahanadi delta and Kosi-Gandak floodplains

Hard infrastructure that was built as a short term solution for flood defense has disrupted the natural linkages between wetlands and water. This has made the life and livelihoods of communities even more vulnerable to flooding. Wetlands which harboured rich biodiversity and contributed to commercial fisheries have been reclaimed for settlement and agriculture.

Where we work

The Mahanadi River delta in Orissa and the Kosi-Gandak floodplains in Bihar are ravaged by floods each year. These are densely populated areas (6.2 million in Mahanadi delta and 15.5 million in Kosi-Gandak floodplain) with a majority of the communities engaged in agriculture. In addition to floods, the coastal districts of the Mahanadi delta are frequented by cyclones and tropical depressions.

The seasonal and permanent wetlands associated with the Mahanadi delta (patas and doabs) and Kosi- Gandak floodplains (mauns and chaurs) formerly served the important function of buffering excess flood waters and acted as water reservoirs during dry periods.

Aim of our work

We build resilient communities in order to boost their preparedness to disasters and improve their livelihoods in a changing climate.

At the same time, we build the capacity of local institutions for integrating and implementing the ‘resilience’ concept in a sustainable manner. At a policy level, we work with state and national level governments for water and wetlands management to reduce the risk of disaster.

Our approach

We identify different regions with similar landscape features in order to find areas that are vulnerable to the same types of hazards. We then work to create recognition of the interconnectedness of ecosystems in these river basins and coastal zones, and foster support to restore their natural functions.

At the same time we work to build the capacity of communities and institutions to implement risk reduction measures, and link with state and national level governments to integrate ecosystem management into disaster risk reduction practices.

We do this work with local NGO partners who have 10-15 years of experience on the ground. Our work at the local level creates a knowledge base of lessons that we make available to different levels of government as well as development institutions.

We also collaborate with the state government on integrated coastal zone and river basin management, and the national government for water, disaster risk reduction and climate change policy.

Our background papers and video clips on the interconnectedness of water, wetlands management and disaster help us communicate our findings.


Our efforts are creating resilience and protecting the livelihoods of communities using approaches that recognise the importance of a healthy natural environment for reducing the risk of disasters.

  • Two partners have integrated resilience into their strategic organisational framework
  • The district disaster management plan being developed by the national disaster management authority now includes the ecosystem management template and has been introduced in two sites: Puri in the Mahanadi delta and Bettiah in the Kosi-Gandak floodplains

Additional achievements will be highlighted as our work progresses.

Project Partners:

Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre

Read the joint vision document: A new vision for community resilience
Read the leaflet: A new partnership for resilience 



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