Original Research

Traditional knowledge system in disaster risk reduction: Exploration, acknowledgement and proposition

Pribat Rai, Vimal Khawas
Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies | Vol 11, No 1 | a484 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jamba.v11i1.484 | © 2019 Pribat Rai, Vimal Khawas | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 April 2017 | Published: 04 June 2019

About the author(s)

Pribat Rai, Department of Geography, Sikkim University, Gangtok, India
Vimal Khawas, Department of Peace and Conflict Studies and Management, Sikkim University, Gangtok, India


The last 60 years have witnessed advanced technological innovation for disaster risk reduction (DRR) with the invention of high-resolution satellite imagery, digital cartography and modern engineering building techniques to high-yielding agricultural production. However, none have been highly satisfying in lessening the impact of disasters. The significant factor for the limited success of modern scientific society is that it views the world from a temporal perspective where humans are believed to be an active agent in modifying every natural possibility into opportunity. The very composite environmental system is simplified whilst extracting resources, resulting in resource depletion and environmental degradation, consequently opening the door for disaster. Technocratic science must recognise the need for a relational or holistic approach rather than believing in reductionist approaches alone whilst dealing with natural calamities. In this context, the knowledge of traditional societies is important to fill up the existing gaps created by the modern society. Traditional knowledge has different sets of ingredients to foster the development of the relational or holistic approach as it involves, interacts and interconnects humans, non-humans (animals and plants) and nature together, setting a perfect balance for sustainable development and DRR. It has vast undocumented observational data of changing natural phenomena, and in today’s scenario of climate change and uncertainty, it can create a path for reliable adaptation measures from climate-induced disasters. Thus, a holistic approach is needed for comprehensive DRR measures where both scientific and traditional knowledge systems can work together. The main purpose of this article was to explore the effective ingredients of traditional knowledge in DRR and how this age-old wisdom can be offered a hand to its integration into and collaboration with scientific research and management for DRR. To fulfil the objectives, a theoretical desk study approach was followed by identifying relevant studies, highlighting traditional knowledge in DRR from empirical and grey literatures, archive materials, biblical stories and so on. This research highlights some of the good practices of traditional knowledge in DRR and the possible path of collaboration of two knowledge systems in DRR.


traditional knowledge; indigenous knowledge; scientific knowledge; disaster risk management; disaster risk reduction


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