Climatic Change

, Volume 153, Issue 1–2, pp 141–164 | Cite as

Safety nets and natural disaster mitigation: evidence from cyclone Phailin in Odisha

  • Paul Christian
  • Eeshani KandpalEmail author
  • Nethra Palaniswamy
  • Vijayendra Rao


The global incidence of very intense cyclones has increased in recent decades with climate projections signaling that this trend will intensify. To what degree can vulnerability to extreme weather events be mitigated by access to a rural livelihoods program, particularly with regard to the impacts on women? This paper addresses this question through a natural experiment arising from two independent but overlapping sources of variation: exposure to a devastating cyclone that occurred in the Bay of Bengal region of India and the staggered rollout of a rural livelihoods intervention. Comparisons from household surveys across communities more or less exposed to the storm before and after the introduction of the program reveal that the storm led to significant reductions in overall household expenditure, and that these reductions were indeed the largest for women, adding to the emerging evidence for the frequently-posed hypothesis that women bear the brunt of the effects of disasters on overall household consumption. Participation in the livelihoods program mitigated some of the reductions in household nonfood expenditure and women’s consumption, but not on food expenditure. These results from a densely populated region whose topography makes it particularly vulnerable to storms can inform future policy approaches and aid in modeling the impact of these policies on the effects of climate change.



We thank Madhulika Khanna and Aditya Shrinivas for research assistance; and SUTRA consultancy and the Social Observatory for data collection. We gratefully acknowledge suggestions and support from Saurabh Dani, Samik Sundar Das and DV Swamy, and financial support from the South Asia Disaster Management and Climate Change team at the World Bank, and from the contributions of (1) UK Aid from the UK government; (2) the Australian Department’s of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT); and (3) the European Commission (EC) through the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI), which is administered by the World Bank. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this paper are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the views of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/World Bank and its affiliated organizations, or those of the Executive Directors of the World Bank or the governments they represent. The views expressed also do not necessarily reflect the UK, EC or Australian government’s official policies or the policies of the World Bank and its Board of Executive Directors.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The World Bank GroupWashingtonUSA

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