Essay : The Country’s Need for a Better Disaster Management System

Disaster is extreme disturbance in the functioning of a habitat that causes widespread human, environment 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 per cent the total geographical area, has to support 16 per cent of total world population. Naturally, there is a tremendous pressure on the natural resources, which directly or indirectly lead to the occurrence of disasters.

Example of life threatening natural disasters that caused a great loss to mankind was Tsunami that took place in 2004. With the 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, earthquake that caused 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 Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Another major disaster was 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 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 the disasters. Disaster management does not remove or eliminate the threats. It focuses on formulating plans to decrease the effect of disasters. A 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 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, policy makers, professionals (engineers, architects), financial institutions (banks, house financing institutions) and common people. ​
  • The authorities should have detailed sets of data and information on phenomenon 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 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 rescue team. A proper disaster management team which 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 latest technologies. Also, it is of utmost importance to be prepared with a proper disaster management team which 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 non-routine response. 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. The 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.