Jyotiraj Patra: Investigating the use of research in disaster risk management in India

January 27, 2015
Marissa Van Epp

Jyotiraj Patra worked with the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA) as a research award recipient in 2014.

Jyotiraj Patra got his start with Concern Worldwide, working on disaster preparedness in Odisha, in coastal India. Since then he has continued to work on disaster preparedness and risk reduction programs in India, focusing on community-based disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, and the research-policy interface.

His experience in disaster management in India has shown Jyotiraj that research does not always make its way into policy into practice. “I found that the element of research uptake and use was missing from research in India,” he says. Jyotiraj joined the CARIAA team to address this gap. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to build the capacity of researchers in a developing country – to make sure the research produced gets into the right places,” he says.

Supporting CARIAA’s work on putting research into use

Working as a research awardee based at IDRC's head office in Ottawa was Jyotiraj’s first experience with a funding agency. One of the things he enjoyed about his work with CARIAA is that the program focuses on producing research that is policy-relevant, and that it emphasizes strong stakeholder engagement from the beginning. He notes that CARIAA uses the concept of climate hot spots spanning Africa and Asia and a consortium model to address common challenges across different contexts. “The advantage,” he says, “is in understanding the complexity. The hot spot approach is one of the best things that CARIAA brings to climate change research at this time. Each consortium brings different skills and disciplines to the table,” he adds. "This program is quite unique.”

Identifying opportunities for policy impact

During his year-long term with IDRC, Jyotiraj worked to address the gaps between research and policy by helping to develop CARIAA’s stakeholder engagement processes and research-into-use framework. He also researched Indian policies with relevance to climate change adaptation. The change in government in India in 2014 has brought forward new initiatives on climate change adaptation. With his research, Jyotiraj wants to demonstrate that this is a window of opportunity, and one that new donors should maximize. “The new government says that it wants to ensure that India’s disaster risk management institution is more robust at the local level, and that is open to new ideas,” he says.

Understanding how research reaches policy

Flood damage in UttarakhandEvents like the 2013 flood in Uttarakhand state in northern India have also brought changes. Jyotiraj is working to assess changes in the flood risk management science-policy interface in the aftermath. He emphasizes how instrumental CARIAA’s consortia model has been in reframing his approach, which has shifted from supply and demand to political economy. “It’s not a linear, apolitical process,” he explains. “We need to understand the political economy. Narratives around floods and power relations – how do they play out?” He hopes the research he is contributing to will allow for a better understanding of this process.

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Marissa Van Epp is a writer based in New York City.

CARIAA is a joint initiative of the UK’s Department for International Development and Canada’s International Development Research Centre. The program runs until 2019.​

Photo (right): Jyotiraj Patra

Jyotiraj's work with the CARIAA program included a case study on extreme flooding event in Uttarakhand, India in 2013.