Mercy Corps: Small Business Resilience Critical in Mitigating Disaster Like 2015 Chennai Floods

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One year after floods in India killed hundreds and left nearly two million people displaced, new research highlights critical lessons for the future.

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Small businesses provide the backbone of the economy. Increasing their protection – through supports including better insurance products and other financial tools – can improve the resilience of the entire city.

On the anniversary of devastating flooding in the city of Chennai, India, the global organization Mercy Corps has put forth a new report, Transforming Chennai, calling on the global urban development community to work with local governments and financial institutions to provide protections for small businesses in growing urban centers such as this one. Helping small enterprises weather disaster, according to the report, can significantly improve a city's chances of thriving economically.

Mercy Corps partnered with the India-based research and consulting group Okapi Research and Advisory to conduct the study.

“Many cities in Asia are rapidly expanding and as a result some of the most economically attractive places in the world are also some of the most ecologically vulnerable,” says Olga Petryniak, Regional Resilience Initiatives Director for Mercy Corps. “Public institutions and services in these places simply have not kept pace with the influx of migration and demands on infrastructure.” Small businesses, says Petryniak, provide the backbone of the economy. Increasing their protection – through supports including better insurance products and other financial tools – can improve the resilience of the entire city.

The flooding in Chennai took more than 300 lives and left 1.8 million people displaced, in addition to causing over $7 billion USD in economic loss. In Chennai, small businesses contribute to almost 3 percent of national gross domestic product; many affected by the flood have yet to recover.

The study draws attention to the risks facing small business, given their importance to urban economies. It calls for urban planners, government institutions and the private sector to work together and focus on financial and institutional supports for small enterprisers that can help them prepare for and recover from shocks.

Mercy Corps is among those organizations currently engaged in initiatives aimed at building urban resilience in numerous locations, Petryniak says, and plans to use these learnings for larger projects in the future.

Read or download the full report here.

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Katia Riddle
Mercy Corps
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