Saving lives with local life jacket

Previously, we threw away plastic bottles which resulted in environment pollution. Now, we have learned that this bottle-made jacket can save our lives during flooding

By Sofila Vaidya and Dilli Upadhyaya

Twelve used bottles of mineral water, jute sack and a thread are all that is required to produce a lifesaving jacket. In Terai region of Nepal, this bottled jacket has already saved more than 20 lives during last year’s devastated flood.

This jacket was firstly used by the community members of Banjhara to save those who were trapped in a disastrous flood of 2017 in Nepal. With the help of life jacket, around 20 people were saved from drowning. Sighting the success of the jacket during emergency response, every community members wanted to learn how to produce and have it as a to-go jacket for safety.

Popularity lead to production, and Oxfam in Nepal with support from Rural Development Centre organized a training session for 27 households to produce and use the jacket. In Banjhara village, which has 523 households, almost all community members were interested to learn how to make the jacket. As such, local ward level community member plans to further train remaining households. “I aim to introduce the jacket made with locally available resources to all 523 households living in Banjhara,” says Bigu Sha Baniya, Ward Chairperson of Banjhara village.

Building capacity and resilience

It was not long ago when Community Disaster Management Committee (CDMC), were enthusiastic about learning different and innovative preparedness plans and responses. The committee had already received trainings to enhance their responding capacity for disaster preparedness. However, life jacket production training was one of the crucial and creative component of the preparedness and response in flood affected communities. Alike the first phase of training provided to 27 households, the committee aims to further train the remaining households in coming days.

Oxfam in Nepal has been significantly involved in Disaster Risk Reduction and Humanitarian Preparedness since 2011. Moreover, monsoon preparedness has always been crucial aspect as many people lose their lives in disastrous floods during monsoon season in Nepal. To strengthen the monsoon preparedness plan, community based Early Warning Taskforce are sensitized on their roles and responsibilities to deliver the information about weather forecast beforehand to vulnerable communities. District and local level emergency stock pile consisting of search and rescue materials and first aid items are regularly monitored and updated and are kept standby for emergency response. Likewise, Disaster Preparedness and Response Plan is regularly updated and kept in standby with support from Oxfam in Nepal.

Nonetheless, bottled life jacket has been one of the popular preparedness element in the flood prone areas of Rautahat and Saptari.

Inflatable and bottle-made life jacket – what’s the difference?

As the name states, life jacket, if worn at the time of emergency, helps save lives from inundation. However, during the simulation exercises carried out in the region, it was observed that the bottled jacket was more productive than the standard inflatable life jacket.

A jacket made with twelve bottles of water was more dependable, which helped people to float easily in the water. When worn by the life saver, he/she can effortlessly help many people without the distress of drowning him or herself. This jacket has been tested in Bagmati river of Rautahat district during simulation exercise and has been used in real flood scenario in Banjhara as well.

Made with the available resources, it is very easy to produce and is equally durable. Families from marginalized and poor income communities can make the jacket without any extra cost. No specific skills are required to create the jacket and it can be made in any sizes. More the number of bottles, greater the reliability

“This life jacket has acted as a prime tool of protection for our lives. We do not have income to buy the life jacket. Thus, we have learned how to make one from local resources. Now, we can save our lives with our own effort and skills,” says community member, Sunita Devi Kushwa.

The committee also aims to develop Standard Operating Procedures to give firsthand information to the communities on how to produce the jacket appropriately.

Recycling the bottles, saving people and environment

Dual advantage of recycling the plastic bottles has been truly outstanding. Recycling the bottles not only saves lives, but also helps protect the environment. Previously, mineral water bottles were instantly thrown after its use. However, the successful introduction and use of bottle life jacket, communities can reuse the plastic bottles to produce economical lifesaving jacket, eventually contributing to clean and plastic bottle free environment.

Observing its popularity, the committee has also planned to encourage interested households to produce the life jacket and sell them in the flood prone areas of terai. This will contribute as an income generation activity. “Previously, we threw away the bottles which resulted in environment pollution. Now, we have learned that this bottle-made jacket can save our lives during flooding,” says Bigu Sha Baniya, a ward chairperson of Banjhara village.

If you would like to have more information on how to make a bottled life jacket, please contact:

Mr. Umesh Chandrabanshi

Community Facilitator, Rautahat

Tel: 9845744880

The Disaster Risk Management and Humanitarian Preparedness Project aimed to build households’ resilience, four flood prone districts of Terai, such as Saptari, Dhanusha, Sarlahi and Rautahat in partnership with five different local organizations Koshi Victim Society (KVS) in Saptari; Social Development Research Center (SDRC) in Dhanusa; Bagmati Welfare Society Nepal (BWSN) in Sarlahi; Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) in Rautahat and Rural Development Center (RDC) in Rautahat. The increased community resilience was aimed through intervention in Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation and women empowerment of targeted communities and institutions. Oxfam in Nepal has implemented early flood recovery project for WASH and livelihood in Saptari and Rautahat districts.