Disaster management needs overhaul #31

Oracle IAS, the best coaching institute for UPSC/IAS/PCS preparation in Dehradun (Uttarakhand), brings to you views on important issues.

Syllabus: Mains Paper: 3 | Environmental hazards and climate change

'India needs to refocus on improving resilience than management of natural disasters'. Comment. 


• Incidents of flooding have become frequent, aided by human intervention.

• In the massive flooding in Kerala, more than a million people were displaced and had to be housed in relief camps.

• The conservative estimate of losses has been put at ₹21,000 crore.

Significant gaps in India’s preparedness:

• About 70% of its coastal areas are prone to tsunamis and cyclones, about 60% of its landmass vulnerable to earthquakes, and 12% of its land to floods.

• Multi-storied housing is booming in urban India, built on a framework of beams, pillars and brick walls.

• With parking spaces prioritised at the ground level over structural stability, retrofitting is urgently needed, despite the significant costs.

• Most Indian houses are made of brick masonry walls, with fire/unfired bricks and stones, and yet few if any undergraduate civil engineering courses consider these materials, focussing instead on reinforced cement and concrete.

• Earthquake engineering is taught as a specialisation at just a few universities, leading to a serious shortage of retrofitting-trained civil engineering manpower.

• We are far behind even in forecasting disasters that occur annually. egs. After the Kedarnath floods in 2013, Uttarakhand still has few if any Doppler radars to provide early alerts about cloudbursts and heavy rain.

• There are few guidelines on construction in flood-prone regions or even a map of safe zones.

• Few States have prepared emergency action plans for the over 5,000 large dams in India, with reports of just 200 dams having been covered so far.

• Inflow forecasts are available for around 30 reservoirs and barrages (there are over 4,800 such structures).

• Mitigation projects for upgradation of the observatory network have barely commenced.

• The effectiveness of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has been hampered by a shortage of trained manpower, training, infrastructure and equipment

• The CAG has been highlighted the National Disaster Management Authority’s performance in projects such as vulnerability assessment and mitigation projects of major cities as “abysmal”.

• Disaster norms are also skewed more towards rural areas, focussing on agriculture, fisheries, livestock and handicrafts from a relief perspective.

• Typically, after a disaster, revenue officials are responsible for visiting affected areas and identifying people for relief, in turn offering scope for misuse and corruption.

• Any disaster relief will typically exclude anyone living in an unauthorized area. Such norms also exclude share-croppers and agricultural labourers, while focusing only on small and big farmers.

Moving forward

• Planned urbanization can withstand disasters, a shining example being Japan which faces earthquakes at regular intervals.

• The India Disaster Resource Network should be institutionalised as a repository for organised information and equipment gathering.

• Disaster preparedness should be focused on meeting the immediate contingency, implementing a conceptual, long-term rehabilitation strategy while maintaining an ethnographic understanding.

• Citizen awarness and participation in planning is a key to effective mitigation starategy.

• The NDRF must fill its vacant specialist positions while being given better control over transfers and deployment of its personnel.

Related terms:

  • Hyogo and Sendai framework
  • Disaster management act 2005
  • ARC report on DM (Oracle IAS will publish the summary soon)

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Hemant Bhatt

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