Too Much or Too Little: Communities Adapt to Extreme Weather Conditions in Odisha

Year 2014

A UNDP partnership with the government of Odisha supported by the Australian Agency for International Development is enabling communities in Puri district to adapt to extreme weather events. As a result of efforts to strengthen community water management systems, crop yield has increased more than three times despite flooding, villages now have piped water supply and incidences of water-borne diseases are declining.


  • UNDP’s partnership with the govt of Odisha and supported by the Australian Agency for International Development is helping communities in Puri in Odisha adapt to extreme weather events
  • Community water management systems introduced as part of the partnership have increased crop yield more than three times despite flooding
  • Drainage systems have enabled farmers to start farming earlier in the year
  • Close to 2,100 hectares of land was cultivated in 2012, more than three times that of 2011 in Bambarada village of Puri
  • Villages have piped water supply and incidences of water-borne diseases are declining

For people living in the floodplains of the Mahanadi river delta in the Indian state of Odisha, life is one of extremes. For six months in a year (July-December), miles of paddy fields, roads and homes are flooded with water. Three months later, water is in short supply as villagers combat water scarcity, affecting everyday life and crop yields.

As weather extremes become more apparent, three villages in the Satyabadi Block which is about a 30 minute drive from the popular beachtown of Puri, came together to identify their most pressing vulnerabilities and ways by which they could address the misery brought by an increasingly erratic rainfall.

As a first, the villagers identified the need to improve flood-water drainage from their fields. They renovated the Kharbar canal, a 12 km long drainage channel that snakes through the villages of Bambarada and Dokhandapur. Built 30 years ago to irrigate fields, the canal had not been used for a long time. It was cleaned out and reconnected to the river, and its progress was monitored by a committee of farmers. The results have been remarkable.

In an area which receives as much as 1500 mm of annual rain in just 15 days, water now drains out much faster and rice fields no longer remain water logged for months. In 2012, farmers were able to plant the paddy crop a month earlier than expected because water receded much faster from their fields. In the summer months when rain is in short supply, the flow can be reversed providing much needed water for irrigating crops.

The Kharbar canal renovation was part of an adaptive water management project supported by a UNDP and funded by AusAID that aims to build the resilience of poor women and men to climate change and reduce their vulnerability to disasters.

Lise Grande, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, India says, “This partnership demonstrates that when communities in high risk areas manage their own water resources the impact can be very significant. Farm productivity increase, children have clean drinking water and women who would ordinarily have to travel a long distance in search of water have easier access. ”

“The drainage system has allowed us to start farming earlier in the year. The possibilities of being able to grow a Rabi crop (summer crop) and easily drain away water has provided us with hope and strength” says 68 year old Kunja Bihari Sahu from Bambarada. Close to 2100 hectares of land was cultivated in 2012, more than three times that of 2011.

In Dokhandapur village, the UNDP-AusAID partnership supported the village in establishing a rain water harvesting pond. Connected to a small filtration plant, piped water is now supplied to the village in an area where the nearest source of clean drinking water was two kilometres away. Better access to clean drinking water will reduce the high incidence of diarrhoea amongst children caused by excessive water logging in the area.

According to Russel Rollason, First Secretary, AusAID “Changing rainfall patterns are forcing villages to change their farming methods and systems. A more holistic community based approach to adaptive water management will help build climate resilience for poor rural communities.”

In nearby villages, communities are improving the quality of water in the village pond by growing vegetables around the pond to prevent the area being used for open defecation. The two adjacent villages now manage the fish pond and garden and in the first 6 months of activities, the villages earned INR 12,000 from the sale of fish and vegetables. The villagers have established a common bank account and the funds are used to buy seed and other necessary inputs to sustain these activities. 

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