The Country’s Need for a Better Disaster Management System

The Country’s Need for a Better Disaster Management System Disaster is an extreme disturbance in the functioning of a habitat that causes widespread human, environmental or material losses that overreach the ability of the affected population to cope with its own resources. About 59% 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 69% of the area is susceptible to drought. Some of the examples of disasters are landslides, earthquakes, tsunami, cyclones, droughts, floods, etc.

India is a highly disaster-prone country because of its geographical locations and geological formations. India has long coastline, snow-clad high peaks, high mountain ranges, the perennial rivers in the north that are responsible for this problem. India, which has only two percent of the total geographical area, has to support 16 percent of the total world population. Naturally, there is tremendous pressure on natural resources, which directly or indirectly lead to the occurrence of disasters.

An example of a life-threatening natural disaster that caused a great loss to mankind was Tsunami that took place in 2004. With a magnitude of 9.1– 9.3, it was the third-largest earthquake of the world recorded ever. Almost 227,898 people died. The earthquake had the longest duration of faulting ever observed, between 8.3 and 10 minutes. According to the experts, the earthquake that caused the tsunami was so powerful that its impact can be equated to the energy of 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs. The huge waves of this deadliest tsunami killed lakhs of people in parts of South India, Sri Lanka, and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Another major disaster was the Uttarakhand floods in 2013. The huge and life-threatening cloudburst caused flash floods and landslides that struck Uttarakhand from 14 to 17 June 2013. More than 5,700 people were assumed dead and more than 1 lakh pilgrims were trapped in the valleys leading to the Kedarnath shrine and there are many more such examples.

Disaster management is a well-planned strategy for making efforts to reduce the hazards caused by disasters. Disaster management does not remove or eliminate the threats. It focuses on formulating plans to decrease the effect of disasters. Well-coordinated disaster management helps the country to know about the potential hazards of the disasters and provides the answer to the many questions like how, when, where the disasters can occur.  National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has been set to coordinate responses to natural or man-made disasters across the country. It lays down policies on disaster management, takes measures for the prevention of disaster, mitigation and prepares for dealing with threatening disaster situations. It coordinates the enforcement and implementation of the policy and plans for disaster management.

Steps that Can Be Taken To Make A Better Disaster Management System

  • The National Policy on disaster management reflecting the universal approach involving prevention, mitigation, and preparedness in the pre-disaster phase should be restructured with appropriate additional funding, along with the so far existent policy of the post-disaster relief and rehabilitation under crisis management. ​
  • Awareness, sensitivity, and preparedness to respond to such situations should be increased among the decision-makers, administrators, policymakers, professionals (engineers, architects), financial institutions (banks, house financing institutions), and common people. ​
  • The authorities should have detailed sets of data and information on phenomena that lead to disasters. Scientifically collated and analyzed time series data on climate, geological, hydrological, and environmental aspects can enhance our understanding of natural events, their likely impact on life and property, and development of effective warning systems. ​
  • The State administration managing the impact of a disaster should be able to coordinate and regulate the works of various NGOs. Many such agencies coming with relief from farther areas do not have a good knowledge of the geography and socio-economic environment of affected regions. Under such circumstances, channelizing such relief from specific centralized points to different zones as per the feedback received from a continuously monitored assessment system can yield better results.
  • Disaster management policies must incorporate programs to protect the most vulnerable segments of society—the poor, marginalized, women, children, disabled, and elderly. ​
  • Given that natural disasters do not always follow national boundaries, cross-boundary issues of its management should be addressed through enhanced regional cooperation. Furthermore, an effective regional response system should be developed to pool capacity for mutual benefit. ​
  • Effectively use the expertise of domestic as well as international agencies specializing in the rescue of life and engage army and Para-military in rescue operations. ​
  • Each and every person must take an active part at the time of disasters to reduce the risk of human life by donating money and things of basic necessity or by being a part of the rescue team. A proper disaster management team that can take charge as soon as possible when the disaster strikes should be established. ​
  • To handle the situation efficiently, we need to be well-equipped with the latest technologies. Also, it is of utmost importance to be prepared with a proper disaster management team that can take charge as soon as possible when the disaster strikes. ​

Rehabilitation is an integral part of disaster management. When disasters occur administrative measures are terribly inadequate and perhaps this is the most difficult period for a victim. The role of administration does not end with the end of disasters. In fact, its effort and commitment get more complex. It requires proper coordination among various agencies. In this context, it is very important to note that disasters are non-routine events that require a non-routine response. The government cannot rely on normal procedures to implement appropriate responses — the rescue teams require learning special skills, technologies, and attitudes in dealing with disasters.

Effective disaster management, therefore, needs to ensure that the different interests and priorities of communal life are integrated into planning and response, especially those of vulnerable people and groups. Natural disasters are inevitable, even if we have measures to predict/ forecast them, we cannot stop them from happening. The best which can be done is to avoid the practices which are hazardous for the environment and are leading towards environmental degradation while preparing plans for our disaster management.

 The need for a Better Disaster Management System 

There is no questioning that India has been always a vulnerable country to natural disasters. Natural calamities such as floods, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes, and landslides are recurring phenomena. The recent Uttarakhand disaster has left our disaster management authorities gasping. There are many eyebrows being raised about the role of our National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Even after so many breakthroughs in science and technology, the human death toll and economic losses have just mounted. There are various guidelines issued by the government of India but they never seem to make any considerable amount of impact.

The objective of NDMA was simply to prevent disasters in the country. However, as it turned around people in Uttarakhand were caught unawares by the flash floods and landslides in the absence of any warning or alert. It is very unfortunate that these kinds of situations keep popping up in our country where more than millions get affected by disasters every year. The post-disaster actions have also not been quick and adequate. India’s inefficiency in tackling these disasters has raised many concerns in a hazard-prone country.

The warning system in India has been articulated on paper with finesse but when it comes to the practical use of these systems, the authorities fail to implement the same with effectiveness. There were many projects in the pipeline set up by the government to prevent the natural disasters that hit our country every year. But as it seems they were either left in the midcourse or were to be redesigned because of its poor planning. If these projects were implemented on time then we would have reduced the losses to a bare minimum.

We all are aware of the fact that India is struck by disasters very often, still, there seems to be no plan in place to tackle the disaster even before it has arrived. The tsunami should have been a lesson for the Disaster Management Authorities of India. But there is still lack of required equipment to prevent disasters. Another drawback is the relief that comes after the disaster. Relief is the main aspect as it provides help to the affected. In India, relief is hard to come by on time. Affected people still have to wait for days after the disaster to get proper food and water supplies.

Rehabilitation is another important aspect of disaster management. This is an area that should be given proper attention as this is the part where the city or the affected place gets reconstructed. Providing relief is important but it is also very important to reconstruct the town. Restoration of infrastructure, medical facilities, schools, houses, and other sources of living is a mandate too.

After having witnessed hazards on a huge scale, it's time for India to prepare and plan itself for future disasters. The government at the central as well as at the state/district level has to implement various projects to prevent the disasters initially. The government should try and initiate a nationwide awareness that would help people to understand disaster management strategies. There should be a proper response team including the doctors, paramedics, engineers, etc that can provide rapid response to a disaster. The emergency operation center and trigger mechanism are also very important. People should know way before the disaster is about to hit the city.

India being a hazard-prone country has made several significant changes in the disaster management program. With the youth coming in, a new culture of preparedness, quick response, and prevention of disaster is being accompanied. India is working very hard as a nation to deal with the various disasters that struck the nation every year. However, we are still a long way to go and without support of the people of the country and the government, it won’t be possible. Thus, we have to make sure that we start the change at the grass-root level and then see it coming up to the top level.

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