Over the years disaster has been defined and understood differently by different people with the broader consensus that hazards are natural but disasters are un-natural.
How a natural hazard gets converted into disaster?
All the disasters are human induced. No disaster is natural. EQ, cyclone, flood, cloudburst, tsunami, droughts and landslides are natural hazards or natural activities which have been occurring since the existence of mother earth. If these events takes place in no man’s land it is not called as disaster and not even noticed. However on the contrary if the same activity occurs where it interfaces human existence, entire infrastructure created around by people leading to lot of damages, deaths and millions getting affected, we call it a disaster.
So it is not the natural activity that kills the people but it is the weak infrastructure which has been created for achieving larger ‘developmental’ goals. And this has been created without acknowledgement of the natural activities which have occurred in the vicinity.
Hence we may say that hazards are natural but disasters are un-natural. The size and scale of disasters are determined by us. And hence power to reduce its impact is also within our hands and not only in hands if nature alone. It is not the act of God, it is our own creation.
India is disaster prone:
Geo-climatic and socio-economic vulnerabilities and bad development practices make India prone to various disasters.
The vulnerability atlas prepared by the Building Materials Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC) highlights that 58.6% geographical area in India falls within seismic zone III, IV and V which could face EQ of moderate to very high intensity. Among the 7516 KM coastline, about 5700 KM are vulnerable to storm surge, cyclones and tsunami. More than 68% of cultivable area is vulnerable to drought. Avalanches, forest fire and landslides occur frequently in the Himalayan region of northern India. Among the 35 states/UTs in India 25 are disaster prone. On an average about 50 million people in the country are affected by one or the other disaster every year.
In the first decade of 21st century India faced devastating disasters like Bhuj EQ 2001, Indian ocean tsunami in 2004, Kashmir EQ 2005, Kosi floods in 2008, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka floods in 2009, Leh Cloudburst 2010, Sikkim EQ 2011.
Shifting trend of type of disaster in India
In the 1970s and 80s, droughts and famines were the biggest killer in India. This situation has changed today. Better resource management and food security measures have greatly reduced the death caused by famines and droughts. Floods, high winds and EQ dominate 98% of injuries in last 10 years.
Impact of disaster
Disaster loss include not only the shocking direct effects that we see in the news, such as the loss of life, housing, infrastructure but also indirect effects such as the foregone production of goods and services interruptions in utility services, transport, labour supplies, social network disrupted and capital investment destroyed. Post disaster reconstruction activities strain public finances and divert funds from economic development, which further escalates the losses which are often not directly accounted by the different government bodies. Most of the post disaster damage assessments have been done in the country on the basis of direct loss basis with the replacement value on current price basis. Assessment of indirect loss is not a practice.
Losses are 20 times greater as percentage of GDP in developing countries than industrialized. Developed countries which have early warning modern alert systems and effective mitigation programmes are able to reduce the impact of natural hazards whereas the countries with less preparedness and inadequate mitigation efforts suffer more from natural hazards. As per a study conducted by World Bank in 2001, India loses 2% of GDP and 12% of revenue per annum due to natural disasters.
12th Finance Commission allocated Rs. 21333 Crores for disaster management during the period 2005-2010, it is evident that the damages and economic losses caused by natural disasters are far exceeding acceptable levels and are wiping out the hard earned gains of development from the disaster affected areas.
More importantly the impact of most of the disasters is disproportionately high on the poor. Quite often they lose their homes, assets and livelihoods. Our efforts to achieve ‘inclusive growth’ may not be successful unless Disaster Reduction Risk (DRR) is addressed.
Steps taken in India
The turning point in the thinking on the disaster management was the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 26th Dec 2004. This disaster struck the country in more than seven states which highlighted the gap in early warning, coordination and management of disasters. Consequent to this GOI decided to enact a law on disaster management to provide an institutional mechanism for preparing and monitoring the implementation of disaster management plans, ensuring measures for prevention and mitigation of disasters and for taking holistic, coordinated and prompt response to any disaster situation.
The national policy on disaster management prepared by the NDMA and GOI was formulated with the vision to build a safe and disaster resilient India by developing a holistic, proactive, multi-disaster oriented and technology driven strategy through a culture of prevention, mitigation and response. The national policy envisaged a paradigm shift from the hitherto reactive post disaster relief-centric approach to a more proactive and enabling environment of strengthened disaster preparedness, mitigation and improved emergency response capacities of all stakeholder groups.
Disaster Management act 2005
The Disaster Management Act 2005 lays down institutional, legal, financial and coordination mechanism at the centre, state, district and local levels. These institutions are not parallel structure and will work in close harmony.
With the enactment of DMA 2005, the NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority) was established under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister. The act also provides for the establishment of State Disaster Management Authority and District Disaster Management Authority. Therefore DM architecture for the country has now been provided with legal backing and responsibility with clear rules.
National Disaster Management Act 2005 has made provision for constitution of two funds viz. National Disaster Response Fund and National Disaster Mitigation Fund.
Steps to be taken
Use of technology: Most modern nations have adopted innovative systems, techniques and technologies to improve the effectiveness of disaster management. The application of information technology, ICT, mobile communication for broadcasting of early warning and alert messages, geographical information systems, GPS, GPRS, remote sensing, VoIP, scenario analysis and modeling, biometrics for family reunification in disasters, bathymetry for Tsunami, dopplar radars etc are being increasingly used by many countries.
Spreading awareness using economic means: In India the Department of IT’s satellite linked Common Service Centers can be used to disseminate critical life saving messages in local languages and dialects to disaster prone communities instead of spending huge amounts of money on television channels, advertisements in newspapers and magazines.
The printing of public awareness messages on postal stationery and on railway tickets and boarding passes of airlines will also have the desired impact.
A judicial mix of indigenous traditional knowledge and modern technology is required to reach various stakeholder groups for greater public awareness on disaster risk and vulnerability.
Training and capacity building: Preparedness measures such as training of role players including the community, conducting mock drills, development of advanced forecasting systems, effective communications and above all a well networked institutional structure involving the govt. organisations, academic and research institutions, the armed forces and the non government organizations have to be strengthen to the overall disaster management in the country.
Involving the people: It has now been recognized that the community as an institution itself is emerging as an effective player in the entire mechanism of disaster administration. In the event of actual disasters, the community, if well aware of preventive actions, can substantially reduce the damage caused by the disaster. Awareness and training of the community is particularly useful in areas that are prone to frequent disasters.
Role of local bodies: Local governance institutions with their grass root level contacts with the common people, can make a substantial contribution to the process of spreading awareness and ensuring an ensuring an active people’s participation in disaster mitigation activities. They are ideal channels for NGOs and other agencies that conduct any disaster management programme, right from the relief, recovery and rehabilitation to planning for mitigation and prevention.
Executing the planned programmes: It is unfortunate that most of the mitigation projects proposed in 11th FYP have remained non starters. It is extremely important that these proposed initiatives are incorporated in the 12th FYP during 2012-2017 as these have been conceptualized to address some of the critical gaps in the effective management of disasters in India.
Phases of disaster management (check 2nd arc 3rd report page 13)
Pre-crisis preparedness -> During Crisis emergency response -> Post-crisis recovery, rehabilitation, reconstruction
Some Appreciation Please!