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Ladakh Protecting and Securing Rights in Crisis

On the midnight of 5th August 2010, an unprecedented cloudburst over Leh caused flash floods, affecting an estimated 20,000 men, women and children. Oxfam India provided survival kits, water sanitation & hygiene and food security measures to 2,600 households in the worst affected regions.

morning and night she never found our daughter in law. We have still not found her body. My elder grandson is only in class nine. We have got them admitted to a boarding school in Udhampur. It is hard for an old and sick couple like us to manage three little children.


y wife and I live here alone now. We have two sons. One is in the army. Our younger son is a monk. He lives in the monastery. I am an ex army man. My older son stays away on army duty. My daughter-in-law and her children were staying in their new house. They were still in the process of building it. Half their belongings were here. They had only taken the cooking utensils to the new house. That fateful day I was here, when the devastating floods came. The boulders came pelting down and my little grandchildren were caught in the midst of the chaos. My eldest granddaughter saved her brothers by helping them cling on to a tree. Then the neighbour's son saw them and came and rescued them in the night. He tied a rope around his waist and then waded into the water and saved the children. My wife went herself to see if our daughter-in-law and grand children were safe. But though she searched

In this flood we have lost everything that mattered: our son's wife, their new house, the fields, the bullock. Even the jeep was washed away. I am still in shock, in depression. I just lie here at home. I don't know what support we got and from whom. But my wife will be able to tell you more." Tundup Wangial, 63 years


e received blankets, stove, pressure cooker, buckets. It was all useful because most of our belongings had gotten washed away.

corner. Slowly though the water and the mud started rising. Soon the mud had come up to my neck. I felt like I was trapped and would suffocate.

We are old now. Our son is away. Our daughter-in-law has gone. Rebuilding the house and our life feels like a big job. We don't have the confidence to do it alone. Our son who is a monk comes and visits us every morning and evening to give us moral support.

I began to meditate and pray. I felt the mud loosen. Then along with the other people we somehow moved to higher ground. We stayed at the monastery shocked at the disaster unfolding all around.

Our fields have gone. Even the food we had stocked for the winter months that has been washed away. The water mills have gone. The tractor has been brought to our village. We have got 100 kilos of barley ground. That will see us through the whole of next year. At least we will not have to worry about that."

I learned later that my sister-in-law was missing. My nieces and nephews had a narrow escape. There was so much loss and suffering all around. At the monastery we received buckets and soap and other essentials to help us through the crisis. My parents are old and still coping with the loss. I visit them twice a day." Monk, 35 years

Tarshi Palzome, 66 years


he day the flood came I was conducting a marriage ceremony in the village. There were loudspeakers blaring music, lots of people talking loudly and generally a lot of chaos as is normal at a wedding ceremony. Because of the noise we didn't hear the sounds of the flood initially. Then the waters started coming in. I didn't panic. I just moved to one

Cover photo Hundreds of families took refuge at campsites like this one at "Solar Colony", September 2010

"We are old now. Our son is away. Our daughter-in-law has gone. Rebuilding the house and our life feels like a big job" Tarshi Palzome

"At the camp I saw a relative and became unconsolable, I just could not control my tears. My feet were bruised and I was overwhelmed with fear at what lay ahead"

We were assigned to Hemank Camp. Here I saw a relative and became unconsolable, I just could not control my tears. My feet were bruised and I was overwhelmed with fear at what lay ahead.


was at a birthday party with my sister and brother the day the waters came. Lots and lots of water started coming in. Initially we didn't realize the magnitude and all of us were trying to remove the water, but it was in vain. As the downpour continued we became scared. We started hearing news that many people had lost their lives and many homes were destroyed. I was worried about my parents. Were they okay‌I wanted them to know we were safe. But the phone lines were down and we could not inform anyone. Somehow I survived that night and came to Choglamasar the next morning. Here I realized the extent of damage everywhere. I finally got news about our family. My mother was alive. She was okay. But my aunt could not be found. Eventually her body was found. My uncle confirmed that it was her. Then we heard that our house was washed away. We would have to live in tent – in a shelter camp.

At the Camp initially two families were assigned to a tent. It was very difficult. Later we were asked to shift to Solar Camp. Here our family of six people was to live in one tent. We received support from various donors. From Oxfam we got thermocol sheets- these were very helpful in keeping the cold out from the ground. We also got stoves and a pressure cooker, blankets, a bucket, soap and tablets to purify water. They provided water and toilet facilities for the camp as well. Someone came and held a session on hygiene. Now the nights are getting very cold and we cannot sleep in these tents. We have started renting a room for the night. We go after dinner, sleep there and return in the morning. Everyone cannot afford to rent but those who can are doing so. Living in these tents I have a new life and routine here. I wake up at six, pray, make tea and breakfast for the family. My younger brother has been admitted to a local school and I make sure he gets ready in time and

then I take him to the bus stop. I come back and wash clothes, clean the tent, cook. Then I help my younger brother with his homework. I have also started teaching the other small children in the camp. To relax I listen to the radio. It's hard as a woman to share a tent with so many people. There is no privacy. People here at the camp, don't keep the toilets as clean as they should. Disposing sanitary napkins is also difficult since we do not have any garbage disposal system. We have been allotted plots for shelter at the Solar Camp. The

government has given us a lakh of rupees to build new houses here. But there is no labour and we have to do the work ourselves. Also the design of the house has changed many times, so the work has not progressed much. I am not sure what will happen but I don't expect to go back to college till March next year. My studies have been hampered but I am just trying to make the best of the situation we are in." Tshirin, 22 years, Solar Camp originally from Tharuk Village

"My fields where I grew vegetables, had orchards with apple and apricot trees now lay trampled below a mass of boulders, some the size of houses" Tchawang Dorji


was at home when the flood happened. Here the water came a little later than other places. At around 7.15 am there wasn't that much water, but around 9.30 I heard a deafeningly, loud noise. I knew then something terrible was happening. My first thoughts were – I hope my children are okay. I have three daughters and they are all married and working. I didn't want anything to harm them. It was only after I knew that they were safe that my thoughts turned to my fields. From the temple which was on top of the hill I surveyed my fields. To my horror I realized that 90% of my acre of land was destroyed. My fields where I grew vegetables, had orchards with apple and apricot trees now lay trampled below a mass of boulders, some the size of houses. For three days the area was waterlogged. When the water receded I tried to get some labour to help me clear the area. It was an insurmountable task.

After a lot of effort and money the labour could only clear a small ten feet patch. I thought then that I had lost these fields forever. I am a simple man. I have never been to school. My father died when I was twelve and I had to start working then with the Border Security Forces. I learned many things on the job. The Goba and other village folk say I have very good technical map drawing skills. I don't know, I am just a farmer. When this organisation came forward to help us by providing these machines, I had tears in my eyes. This initiative has bought back the light in my eyes, brought new hope. In the next five hours my field will be cleared of the major boulders. Then within another four to five days with some labour to help me I can clear the remaining rubble. By next year I will be able to cultivate my fields again. I will be able to live with dignity." Tchawang Dorji, 65 years Tingmosegang village


hat night the floods came along with mudslide and boulders, and the village communication systems just collapsed. Roads got destroyed, phone and electricity lines went dead. I just managed to call the police station to tell them what we were experiencing. The police came next morning, walking from 20 Kms away, since the roads were gone; even the National Highway was damaged. Then a small rescue team came in from Leh, and together we surveyed the entire village. 20 people had died, many were missing. Those who escaped had taken shelter in the monastery, mosque, and on hill tops. Some 70 houses were destroyed or badly damaged. 60% of the agricultural land, including apple and Leh Berry plantations, were devastated. All the water mills - 30 or 40 of them - were destroyed.

Help from Oxfam and RDY came around mid August. They provided temporary shelter kits with life saving materials - blankets, foam sheets and tarpaulin. They also built toilets, provided buckets for storing drinking water, water purification tablets, soap, stoves and pressure cookers. I gave them a list of the most vulnerable families, and accordingly they supplied the materials. The help was most timely and appropriate. Oxfam also provided two tractors to grind the grain and create food security for the families. I have a family of 12 members. The flood damaged my house too - the foundation has weakened and the walls have cracked - but I am not taking any aid to repair it. The damage to many other families is higher. My duty is to serve the people of my village. What is top most on my mind now is that we don't have enough labour to start rebuilding. The irrigation canals are blocked. They are vital, I must find a way to repair them soon. Stanzin Dorza, Goba (village head) Pheyang Village


hen I was young, girls were never sent to school. So I have never studied. When I was twenty years old I fell in love with the boy next door. My parents did not object and so we got married. We had two children – they are all grown up now and settled elsewhere. One is in the army and the other is in the education department. My husband was a zamindar – unfortunately he died twenty six years ago. Now I live alone. Our livelihood was agriculture. We used to grow wheat and potatoes. But now everything is gone. Washed away in the worst flood I have ever seen – this was much, much worse than anything that has happened here before. The night the waters came, I moved to a neighbour's house which was in a safer place. When I came back in the morning I saw that my house and most of my belongings were destroyed. Only one room was livable and that is where I live now. Around that time I received blankets, a stove, pressure

cooker, foam sheets, a bucket and other such things. They were all necessities. The water mills were also washed away. So I went to the tractor mill and ground my wheat there. I have ground 30 kilos. This will see me through the winter months. My day begins at 5.30 AM. I do my prayer, make tea, take the animals out to graze, come back to clean the house and then cook. I make rotis, skew and thukpa usually. Neighbours help me with vegetables now that my fields have gone. In the afternoon I go back to fetch the cattle. By 9, I go to sleep. Every few days the tankers come and I go to fetch water. This is the hardest job. I don't believe that I have suffered so much. From what I have heard others have lost much more. I pray every moment that all living creatures are blessed and no one has to go through such a disaster again." Mingure Kunzang, 75 years Pheyang Village

"The water mills were also washed away, so I ground my wheat at the tractor mill... it will see me through the winter months"


y husband passed away three years ago. He was a carpenter, and though he was in good health, he died suddenly while working in the field. I was completely unprepared. I have 2 children. One of them is married and the other is 19 years old – he has passed class 10. They are not here with me, I live alone and manage everything myself. I own a small patch of land where I grow barley and potatoes, just enough to feed myself. When we got news of the floods, my neighbours helped me shift all my belongings to a safe place. But the waters never came like we had imagined. I still haven't got everything back. I used to work at my neighbour's mill and get my own grain ground there. Their mill got destroyed in the flood, and so I lost my livelihood and source of food.

Ground wheat and barley are very important in our life. We use it in many forms – we mix it with milk and make a nutritious drink out of it. We make rotis or biscuits, mix dry fruits and... oh there are many ways that we eat it. If there is a birthday we carry it as a gift, if someone dies we take some to show our solidarity and respect. Whether to feed ourselves or our guests – I cannot imagine life without this. When the tractor mill came to our village, I was able to grind lots of grain. I cannot say how many kilos, but I know that it will see me through the whole of next year. The best part was that we got this facility free. This initiative has given me peace of mind." Tsering Nuskit, 50 years Tia village

"Whether to feed ourselves or our guests – I cannot imagine life without this"

conversation with

Nisha Agrawal CEO, Oxfam India By Amit Sengupta

As the CEO of a leading international humanitarian organization, how was the experience on 'Leh Flood Response'?

It was a very rewarding experience. The disaster struck on August 5, this year. We sent the team out quickly and took a quick decision to provide relief once we had done our needs assessment. There were not too many players there. People of the region were appreciative. We set our objective which we always do and focused on water and sanitation. This helped to reach out to the flood survivors with clean drinking water, toilet facilities, bathing cubicles and so on. We worked through local Ladakh-based partners. Overall, there was also very good coordination within the Oxfam team – between programs, operations, fundraising and communications teams – working for the Leh Flood Response program.

What were the initial challenges to respond to such a crisis?

The biggest challenge was that the disaster came into an area which is not exposed to such calamity. The cloudburst followed by flash flood hit people who were not necessarily poor. They were middle class people with a good standard of living. They were not used to living under such conditions and seemed shellshocked and traumatized by the experience. The government responded to the disaster quickly and effectively. Oxfam India was also able to respond quickly and effectively. How did Oxfam India plan its advocacy and on what themes on the crisis?

While we were able to provide support in the areas of water and sanitation, household kits and thermal kits, we could not do much to assist with rebuilding the homes that were destroyed during the flash floods since the cost of doing that would be prohibitive for us. So on the shelter issue, all we could do was monitor the situation and keep raising it with the Government so that they could respond faster to the needs of the people. Could you highlight on the fundraising aspects of Leh Response.

For our regular development work, the bulk of funds come from over-

seas donors. During disasters within our country, however, we have found that people want to provide support to those in need and we have always been able to mobilize significant funds from within India. For the Leh relief program as well, we had a budget of more than Rs 1 crore, and the bulk of it was raised from within India. We had a very unique experience this time where the Chemould Art Gallery in Mumbai raised almost Rs 25 lacs towards contribution for Leh and Pakistan through the raffle of paintings donated to it by more than 100 prominent artists from all over India who wanted to contribute to the relief work. It was very satisfying to see so many

people getting engaged and donating willingly. How was Leh Flood Response different from others? How was your personal experience?

Every disaster is unique in some way or the other. However, it is common to see people suffering in all disasters. For many of us, it is hard to see such acute misery and so is it for me. It was the same during the Kosi floods in Bihar. Everywhere, it takes a lot out of people like us to witness the misery inflicted by a humanitarian crisis. Fortunately in Leh, the population density is low. u

conversation with

Rahul Bose Global Brand Ambassador Oxfam India By Amit Sengupta Oxfam India has earned a global reputation for its humanitarian responses. You were featured by TIME magazine as 'Superstar of Art Cinema'. How do you identify yourself with this leading organization? How does it feel speaking up for Oxfam India on national and international forums? u People were put up in tented camps quickly. The agencies working on the disaster were fairly quick to provide the basic needs of the affected survivors.

At a personal level, I realised that the scale of disaster in Leh was much smaller compared to Kosi floods 2008 or to Kashmir earthquake of 2005. But the intensity of the calamity and the misery brought about by it to those who have lost their loved ones is equally devastating. I am both sad and relieved, sad that so much loss and destruction happened and relieved that many thousands have survived and are slowly but surely getting back on the road to recovery.n

I think it's not a question of identifying with Oxfam India, so much so it is identifying with the way Oxfam India works. It could have been any other organization. But Oxfam is a unique organization working in 100 countries they are in globally. Yet the work they do is so unique in so many different spheres - disaster management, flood, earthquake, gender justice, education. They also respond to the basic fundamental requirements – water, health, sanitation – during the course of any disaster. The partners which Oxfam selects across the world are always

thoughtfully picked up and they are always doing deep work at the grassroots. For me it is important the organization has the qualities which I can relate to. Moreover, it is also to do with the way Oxfam India works. The organization is ethically, financially sound. There is a certain way of doing things which you have to like. The fit is right; be it at an emotional, moral and physical level. Could you tell our readers your experience of Leh Flood Response of Oxfam India?

In Leh also, their work was specific. They were focused on sanitation and cleanliness of water. It is important to set your sight on realistic targets. On the ground I was very happy. They did it with ethics and honesty to bring out change on the ground. Oxfam is also thinking on winter shelters issue and has contributed by giving thermal support to the worst affected survivors. It is also heartening that the government is doing their bit. There is no outbreak of disease or no lowering of social standards of the people who have suffered. How do you see your transition from an actor to a social activist? Giving voice to Leh and meeting the flood survivors and giving a voice to their sufferings?

I have not transited from an actor to a social activist. I am still an actor.

Our social conscience becomes more socially aware as we grow older. People are aware of gender discrimination or education. The next step from social awareness is social activism. I couldn't do it when the Mumbai riots broke out. But finally after the 2002 Gujarat riots I decided to jump the bandwagon and do more social activism. Leh also gave me the experience, be it my visit to the flood affected region. Besides, my part in contributing to raising funds from the Mumbai art raffle for Leh was really enriching. How do you wish to take your association with Oxfam India forward?

It is going to be very interesting in the coming times. Copenhagen was instrumental in stirring the climate change debate at the international forum. I would like to go deeper into climate change issue which is having a tremendous impact on vulnerable people across the world. Gender equality is also another issue where I would like to associate myself.

Photo Nisha Agrawal and Rahul Bose at Taroo village, September 2010. Photo: Oxfam India

Response overview L

adakh is a part of the State of Jammu & Kashmir in north India. This region comprises two districts, of which Leh, situated at an altitude of 12,000 feet, is one. It rains very little in Leh. The annual precipitation is around 100 mm, mostly in the form of snow. Local architecture and layout of the towns are simply not made to deal with heavy rainfall. On the midnight of 5th August 2010, Leh experienced a cloudburst of unusual intensity.

According to some reports, the cloudburst poured some 250 mm of rain within one hour. Though it lasted for a short period of time, the downpour caused fatal flash floods and landslides which devastated villages, water sources, roads, phone and electricity lines, and washed away many mudbrick houses. In the aftermath of the floods, newspapers reported 178 deaths and 700 missing.

The broad objectives of the Oxfam India response were to address issues of Emergency Shelter, Safe Water, Sanitation & Hygiene including public health promotion. In this sector Oxfam India reached out to more than the 2000 households. Early in the process it was clear that additional out-of-the-box initiatives were required to address the problems of medium term food security, and the threat of the impending winter. In this relatively narrowly targeted sector, Oxfam India reached out to about 600 households.

Apart from the immediate devastation, the flash floods affected long term food security in the region by ruining farms and orchards, destroying household water-powered grinding mills, and blocking irrigation channels. Despite the availibility of money and materials, rebuilding work for several weeks after the flood was severly constrained because of local elections and the lack of adequate labour force.

Oxfam India response operation in Leh lasted four months, with the major activities ending in mid November.

Area and key villages covered by Oxfam India Bazgoo 1 Nimmoo 2 Umla 3 Taroo 4 Phyang 5 Leh town 6 Stakmo 7 Saboo 8 Choglamsar 9 Shey 10 Thiksey 11 Skiu 12 Igoo 13

~10 Km

3 1 2

4 5

6 8


9 10 11 12


Timeline August 2010 05

Cloudburst over Ladakh


Assessment team in Ladakh


Target area and Sectors decided, Partners identified, Assessment report submitted


Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Team deployed


Oxfam Team deployed in Ladakh


P - 4000 Water Treatment System installed and operating


Deployed Team in Ladakh for WASH, Programme, Logs and Finance


Materials arrive : Aquatabs and Oral Rehydration Solution


Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) engineers deployed


Distribution of Shelter and WASH Non Food Items (NFI) begins

Activities September



Visit by CEO Nisha Agrawal and Brand Ambassador Rahul Bose


Exit Plan drawn up for Logistics and Finance planned


Emergency Food Security & Livelihood (EFSL) emerging needs assessment


Completion of 104 latrines


HCC Engineers exit from Programme


Decision to initiate EFSL support


Distribution of heaters begins


WASH work progresses


EFSL support work completed


EFSL Tractor Mill support begins


RedR Engineers exit from programme

October 04

Real Time Evaluation (RTE)



RTE - Debrief



Requirement for heater emerges as a major need


Completion of Shelter and WASH NFI for 2000 households

Heater distribution complete in 250 households


Team exits from Ladakh


Final visit by communications team and national media for advocacy on Ladakh's crisis

10 15 19

Assessment of beneficiary list for thermal support Completion of construction of 18 bathing cubicles

Safe Water Water Quality Testing Tube wells construction Water purifier installation Installation of Water Tanks with tap distribution

Shelter Shelter and Hygiene Kits distribution Volunteer Kits distribution Emergency LPG heater distribution

Sanitation and Hygiene

Completion of 50 handpump aprons

Latrine construction Bathing Cubicles construction Washing space construction

Public Health Promotion Community meetings Door to door visits Volunteers training Public awareness campaign

Leh has a cold desert climate with long, harsh winters from October to early March. The minimum temperatures fall well below freezing for most of the winter, with the average lows in January reaching -14°C. ƒ Gas powered heaters were provided to 250 households that were assessed to be most in need.

Emergency Food Security & Livelihood Food processing - Tractor grinder Land reclamation - Earth movers


u One of water mills irreparably broken by the flash floods. q Laying of prefabricated

pans, one of the important components temporary pit latrines.

RDY works on capacity building amongst high altitude communities of Ladakh, through training and formation of Self Help Groups, on issues such as Rural infrastructure improvement, HIV AIDS and watershed management. RDY has built reservoirs, new land development and cash crop cultivation projects.

CENSFOOD was founded in 2003 by Tsewang Norboo. The organisation works on issues of Food security and Livelihoods in Leh, with special focus on nomadic tribes of Ladakh. CENSFOOD also works on Feed Banks, Yak breeding and value addition in exotic wild biotic plants of high altitude ecosystems.

Budget Utilisation Emergency Shelter Œ Hygiene Promotion  WASH Ž Human Resources  Administration  EFSL ‘ Logistics ’ Monitoring & “ Evaluation

x Earth movers clear debris at the Shey School grounds.y Local women participate in

the construction of bathing cubicles.

u Participatory hygiene education in camps involve activities using picture cards.q A

49% 11% 8% 8% 8% 7% 5% 4%

drinking water tap station at the Hemank camp. y Tractor powered mills helped process hundreds of Kilos of grain.

The Emergency Shelter Kit comprised Tarpaulin sheet, Ground sheet, Thick plastic sheets, Foam sheets, Blankets, Pressure cooker, Twin burner LPG stove, Lidded buckets with mug, Aquatabs, ORS sachets Soaps, Sanitary napkins



Individual Donors 50%

The budget for the Leh flood response programme is estimated to be about INR 13,311,200.


24% 12%

Art Raffle

6% 3% 2% 2% 1%

Nisha Agrawal, CEO, Oxfam India

As of December 2010, funds raised through different sources have accumulated to about 153% of that budget. This has helped in strengthening the Catastrophe Fund (CAT Fund) of Oxfam India.It is a vital resource that will enable the organisation to respond to forthcoming disasters.

Support from Individual and Corporate Donors Oxfam India's appeal for support from corporates has found responses from exisiting donors like Accenture and Autodesk India, as well as several first time donors such as Synopsys (India and USA), Siemens India Pvt. Ltd., and Motorola India Pvt. Ltd. Many employees from these organisations have also donated in their personal capacity.

On behalf of the children, women and men of Ladakh, Oxfam India extends its heartfelt gratitude to all those who helped secure the rights and dignity of a people in crisis.

In two years, we have responded to four disasters; and our work in Leh has happened because of the contribution of generous donors

An overwhelming INR 11,241,747 has been raised from individual donors alone. Oxfam India is in the process of creating an e-newsletter that will enable individual and corporate donors to keep abreast of the work happenning on the field.

Art Raffle In a unique gesture, artists from across the country gave over 100 works of art free of cost for a raffle draw on 8th of November. The event was hosted at Chemould Gallery, Mumbai, and inaugurated by Brand Ambassador, Rahul Bose. The raffle exhibit featured works of artists like Nalini Malani, Arpita Singh, Atul Dodiya, Anju Dodiya, Sudarshan Shetty, Nilima, Gulam Sheikh, Dhruvi Acharya, Aditi Singh, Shreyas Karle, and Hemali Bhutia. More than INR 2,000,000 were raised for the cause by this initiative.

Photos: from top left: invite to the Art Raffle event; Rahul Bose at the inauguration; one of the works of art donated to Oxfam India, this one by Ms. Meera Devidayal

Make a difference. Today Please donate to Oxfam India It's amazing how much can be achieved with just a small amount of money from people like you and a little help from Oxfam. Your help will make a real difference to people's lives around the world and help eradicate the causes and effects of poverty and injustice. You can give a donation through your nearest Oxfam. Just get in touch with us to help us make change happen. Please contact Srikanta Misra, Manager - Institutional Fundraising, Oxfam India Email : srikanta@oxfamindia.org

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Ladakh 2010  

Report on the relief and recovery work by Oxfam India partners in the wake of flash floods in Ladakh 2010.

Ladakh 2010  

Report on the relief and recovery work by Oxfam India partners in the wake of flash floods in Ladakh 2010.