Disaster management in india
India has been traditionally vulnerable to natural disasters on account of its unique geo-climatic conditions. Floods, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes and landslides have been a recurrent phenomena. About 60% of the landmass is prone to earthquakes of various intensities; over 40 million hectares is prone to floods; about 8% of the total area is prone to cyclones and 68% of the area is susceptible to drought. In the decade 1990-2000, an average of about 4344 people lost their lives and about 30 million people were affected by disasters every year. The loss in terms of private, community and public assets has been astronomical. 1
At the global level, there has been considerable concern over natural disasters. Even as substantial scientific and material progress is made, the loss of lives and property due to disasters has not decreased. In fact, the human toll and economic losses have mounted. It was in this background that the United Nations General Assembly, in 1989, declared the decade 1990-2000 as the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction with the objective to reduce loss of lives and property and restrict socio-economic damage through concerted international action, specially in developing countries.
The super cyclone in Orissa in October, 1999 and the Bhuj earthquake in Gujarat in January, 2001 underscored the need to adopt a multi dimensional endeavour involving diverse scientific, engineering, financial and social processes; the need to adopt multi disciplinary and multi sectoral approach and incorporation of risk reduction in the developmental plans and strategies
Over the past couple of years, the Government of India have brought about a paradigm shift in the approach to disaster management. The new approach proceeds from the conviction that development cannot be sustainable unless disaster mitigation is built into the development process. Another corner stone of the approach is that mitigation has to be multi-disciplinary spanning across all sectors of development. The new policy also emanates from the belief that investments in mitigation are much more cost effective than expenditure on relief and rehabilitation.
Disaster management occupies an important place in this country’s policy framework as it is the poor and the under-privileged who are worst affected on account of calamities/disasters.
The steps being taken by the Government emanate from the approach outlined above. The approach has been translated into a National Disaster Framework [a roadmap] covering institutional mechanisms, disaster prevention strategy, early warning system, disaster mitigation, preparedness and response and human resource development. The expected inputs, areas of intervention and agencies to be involved at the National, State and district levels have been identified and listed in the roadmap. This roadmap has been shared with all the State Governments and Union Territory Administrations. Ministries and Departments of Government of India, and the State Governments/UT Administrations have been advised to develop their respective roadmaps taking the national roadmap as a broad guideline. There is, therefore, now a common strategy underpinning the action being taken by all the participating organisations/stakeholders.
- In May 2019, more than 20 young people died due to a deadly fire at a coaching centre in Surat.
- According to National Crime Records Bureau data, India’s record is appalling on fire safety. More than 17,000 people nationwide died in fire related incidences in 2015.
- These tragedies highlight the gaps in Disaster Management framework of India.
- In this context, there is a need to understand the various facets of Disaster Management and what should be done for fixing accountability and updation of disaster management protocol countrywide.
- A disaster is a result of natural or man-made causes that leads to sudden disruption of normal life, causing severe damage to life and property to an extent that available social and economic protection mechanisms are inadequate to cope.
- It is an undesirable occurrence resulting from forces that are largely outside human control. It strikes quickly with little or no warning and requires major efforts in providing statutory emergency service.
Classification of Disasters
- Disasters are classified as per origin, into natural and man-made disasters. As per severity, disasters are classified as minor or major (in impact).
- Natural disasters are sudden ecological disruptions or threats that exceed the adjustment capacity of the affected community and require external assistance.
- Natural disasters can be broadly classified into categories including geophysical such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions; hydrological such as floods; meteorological such as hurricanes; climatological such as heat and cold waves and droughts; and biological such as epidemics.
- Man-made disasters can include hazardous material spills, fires, groundwater contamination, transportation accidents, structure failures, mining accidents, explosions and acts of terrorism.
Causes for Occurrence of Disaster
- Environmental degradation: Removal of trees and forest cover from a watershed area have caused, soil erosion, expansion of flood plain area in upper and middle course of rivers and groundwater depletion.
- Developmental process: Exploitation of land use, development of infrastructure, rapid urbanization and technological development have caused increasing pressure over the natural resources.
- Political issues: War, nuclear power aspirations, fight between countries to become super power and conquering land, sea and skies. These have resulted into wide range of disaster events such as Hiroshima nuclear explosion, Syrian civil war, growing militarisation of oceans and outer space.
- Industrialization: This has resulted into warming of earth and frequency of extreme weather events has also increased.
Impacts of Disaster
- Disaster impacts individuals physically (through loss of life, injury, health, disability) as well as psychologically.
- Disaster results in huge economic loss due to destruction of property, human settlements and infrastructure etc.
- Disaster can alter the natural environment, loss of habitat to many plants and animals and cause ecological stress that can result in biodiversity loss.
- After natural disasters, food and other natural resources like water often becomes scarce resulting into food and water scarcity.
- The disaster results in displacement of people, and displaced population often face several challenges in new settlements, in this process poorer becomes more poor.
- Disaster increases the level of vulnerability and hence multiply the effects of disaster.
Vulnerability Profile of India
- India is vulnerable, in varying degrees, to a large number of disasters. Around 59% of the landmass is prone to earthquakes of moderate to very high intensity.
- About 12% (over 40 million hectares) of its land is prone to floods and river erosion.
- Close to 5,700 kms, out of the 7,516 kms long coastline is prone to cyclones and tsunamis.
- 68% of its cultivable area is vulnerable to droughts; and, the hilly areas are at risk from landslides and avalanches.
- Moreover, India is also vulnerable to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) emergencies and other man-made disasters.
- Disaster risks in India are further compounded by increasing vulnerabilities related to changing demographics and socio-economic conditions, unplanned urbanization, development within high-risk zones, environmental degradation, climate change, geological hazards, epidemics and pandemics.
- Clearly, all these contribute to a situation where disasters seriously threaten India’s economy, its population and sustainable development.
Worst Disasters in India
- Kashmir Floods (2014) affected Srinagar, Bandipur, Rajouri etc. areas of J&K have resulted into death of more than 500 people.
- Uttarakhand Flash Floods (2013) affected Govindghat, Kedar Dome, Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand and resulted into death of more than 5,000 people.
- The Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004) affected parts of southern India and Andaman Nicobar Islands, Sri Lanka, Indonesia etc., and resulted in the death of more than 2 lakh people.
- Gujarat Earthquake (2001) affected Bhuj, Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Kutch, Surat, Surendranagar, Rajkot district, Jamnagar and Jodia districts of Gujarat and resulted in death of more than 20,000 people.
- Odisha Super Cyclone or Paradip cyclone (1999) affected the coastal districts of Bhadrak, Kendrapara, Balasore, Jagatsinghpur, Puri, Ganjam etc., and resulted into death of more than 10,000 people.
- The Great Famine (1876-1878) affected Madras, Mysore, Hyderabad, and Bombay and resulted into death of around 3 crore people. Even today, it is considered as one of the worst natural calamities in India of all time.
- Coringa Cyclone (1839) that affected Coringa district of Andhra Pradesh and Calcutta Cyclone (1737) are some other instances of natural calamities faced by the country in the past.
- The Bengal Famine in the years 1770 and 1943 affected Bengal, Odisha, Bihar very badly and resulted into death of nearly 1 crore people.
- Bhopal Gas tragedy (December, 1984) is one of the worst chemical disasters globally that resulted in over 10,000 losing their lives (the actual number remains disputed) and over 5.5 lakh persons affected and suffering from agonizing injuries.
- In recent times, there have been
- cases of railway accidents (Dussehra gathering on the railway tracks crushed by the trains in 2018),
- fire accidents in hospitals due to negligence and non implementation of existing mandatory fire safety norms,
- collapse of various infrastructure constructs like flyovers, metro tracks and residential buildings due to poor quality of construction, illegal addition of floors and recurring floods.
- Stampede at large public gathering like Kumbh Mela caused by poor people management and lack of adequate infrastructure to monitor and manage large crowd gathering.
- Disaster Management efforts are geared towards disaster risk management.
- Disaster Risk Management implies the systematic process of using administrative decisions, organisation, operational skills, and capacities to implement policies, strategies and coping capacities of the society and communities to lessen the impact of natural hazards and related environmental and technological disasters.
- These comprise all forms all activities including structural and non- structural measures to avoid (prevention) or to limit (mitigation and preparedness) adverse effects of hazards.
- There are three key stages of activities in disaster management:
- Before a disaster: to reduce the potential for human, material, or environmental losses caused by hazards and to ensure that these losses are minimised when disaster strikes;
- During a disaster: to ensure that the needs and provisions of victims are met to alleviate and minimise suffering; and
- After a disaster: to achieve rapid and durable recovery which does not reproduce the original vulnerable conditions.
- The different phases of disaster management are represented in the disaster cycle diagram.
Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)
- Disaster risk reduction is the concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyse and reduce the causal factors of disasters.
- Pre-Disaster risk reduction includes-
- Mitigation: To eliminate or reduce the impacts and risks of hazards through proactive measures taken before an emergency or disaster occurs.
- Preparedness: To take steps to prepare and reduce the effects of disasters.
- Post-Disaster risk reduction includes-
- Rescue: Providing warning, evacuation, search, rescue, providing immediate assistance.
- Relife: To respond to communities who become victims of disaster, providing relief measures such as food packets, water, medicines, temporary accommodation, relief camps etc.
- Recovery: This stage emphasises upon recovery of victims of disaster, recovery of damaged infrastructure and repair of the damages caused.