Disaster Management

May 23 2015 • Uncategorized • 455 Views • No Comments on Disaster Management

Disaster Management

Uttarakhand Failure

Violation of Nature as the Cause

  1. There is ample scientific evidence that the Himalayan watersheds have witnessed unprecedented deforestation. Vegetative cover slows the speed of falling rain and prevents soil erosion and gully formation. Besides forests and soil soak water from the rain, release it slowly and prevent water flowing as run-off.
  2. There is mounting evidence that global warming is fast catching up with the Himalaya.
  1. While it is important to appreciate the aspirations of locals and economic activities, there cannot be a lack of enforcement of land use laws. Such laws were violated with impunity in Uttarakhand as construction activity came up on the river banks.
  1. Hydel activities cause slope weakening and destabilisation. Similarly sand mining and stone industries also weaken the river system.

Role of Ecological Neglect by the State

  1. It is not as if the state government wasn’t unaware of the looming threat. Government reports had warned of the unchecked dangers of urbanisation and from hydel projects. The authorities have always treated environment with scant regard.
  1. The Centre had declared a stretch of 100 km between Gomukh and Uttarkashi along the Bhagirathi river as an eco-sensitive zone. However, the state government is opposing the move, saying this would adversely affect the development in the region.
  2. The fact is that the dams, barrages and embankments on one hand, magnify the enormity of high floods when they come and on the other, instil a false sense of security in minds of those who come to occupy the erstwhile khadar lands that all is well. The truth is the opposite. Only normal and periodic climatic events have been converted into man-made disasters, with man coming to colonise khadar

Role of Dams

  1. Big dams, like the one at Tehri, disturb the highly fragile Himalayan tectonic system.
  1. But this time the dam managed to protect big towns like Rishikesh and Haridwar through regulation of the Bhagirathi river waters, most of which were held back in the 42-km long reservoir. Experts have now recommended a big dam across the Alaknanda river also to further manage the flow of water.
  1. Being a hill state, Uttarakhand is ecologically sensitive but its two main sources of income are tourism and hydel energy. The state cannot look away from these two sources.
  1. Construction of hydel dams require rivers to be diverted through tunnels to generate power. The construction of these tunnels unsettles the mountainous terrain and contributes to a greater quantity of rocks and sediment crashing down.

CAG Report on Uttarakhand’s Preparedness

  1. It pointed out that the SDMA had remained virtually non-functional.
  1. The state had also failed to incorporate disaster prevention into the development planning.
  1. No thought was given to the fragile ecosystem of the state in the developmental planning process.
  1. Buildings were permitted on floodplains of the rivers.
  1. Such unsafe construction is linked to the religious tourism. Why can’t we adopt policies of Bhutan where tourism is regulated to bring it in harmony with the environment?
  1. Construction of hydel dams require rivers to be diverted through tunnels to generate power. The construction of these tunnels unsettles the mountainous terrain and contributes to a greater quantity of rocks and sediment crashing down.
  1. Vulnerability assessment at local level and identification of necessary mitigative action had not been done. Buildings were permitted on floodplains of the rivers.
  1. The disaster management plan was in place but its implementation was absolutely poor.
  1. The communication system was also inadequate, with the delay in sharing of disaster information.
  1. Absence of any guidelines meant the preparedness was almost nil. The disaster struck on June 16 and rescue and relief operations could begin only on June 24 when the Army was called in.
  1. Until then the government had no clue. It had no idea about the magnitude of what had struck the state.
  1. Restoration work undertaken under the Calamity Relief Fund were delayed and violated the guidelines.
  1. Some warning system had been in place, such as radars and climate prediction.

 

  1. The reports of IMD have always been very imprecise like “heave to very heavy rainfall in some areas in Uttarakhand”. No one has any idea of what heavy to very heavy means.
  1. The prediction accuracy and forewarning capabilities of IMD need to be increased. Apart from quantifying the amount of rainfall, spatial distribution information should also be given.
  1. World over such systems are in place and even in our country such systems are in place for cyclones.

 

National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSDCP)

The idea is to mitigate the impact of all oil spills on the environment by –

Setting specific standards for oil spill equipment stockpiles

Establishing time frames for oil spill response

Increasing collaboration among partner agencies.

Types of Crises

  1. Crises caused by acts of nature. These can further be divided into the following sub-categories:
  1. Climatic events: cyclones and storms (associated sea erosion), floods and drought
  1. Geological events: earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides and avalanches;
  1. Crises caused by environmental degradation and disturbance of the ecological balance;
  1. Crises caused by accidents. These, again, can be further classified into: industrial and nuclear mishaps and fire related accidents;
  1. Crises caused by biological activities: public health crises, epidemics etc;
  1. Crises caused by hostile elements: war, terrorism, extremism, insurgency etc;
  1. Crises caused by disruption/failure of major infrastructure facilities including communication systems, large-scale strikes etc; and
  1. Crises caused by large crowds getting out of control.

Life Cycle Approach to Crisis Management

  1. A crisis does not emerge suddenly; it has a life cycle, which may take days, months or even decades to develop. A crisis, therefore, needs to be examined in terms of its management cycle. This ‘life cycle’ of crisis management may be divided broadly in three phases – pre-crisis, during crisis and post crisis.

World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction, Yokohama, 1994

  1. Risk assessment is an important initial step.
  1. Disaster prevention and preparedness are next important steps and should be included at the planning level itself.
  1. Capacity development is next important step.
  1. Early warning systems should be installed and steps taken for fast and wide warning information dissemination.
  1. Local community involvement is important.
  1. Education and training to the whole community is important.
  1. International sharing of technology is important.
  1. Environmental protection is important and poverty alleviation is imperative.
  1. Needs of developing countries should be kept in mind in disaster management efforts.

Yogyakarta Declaration

  1. Hoyogo Framework for Action: This is the agreement reached in 2005 between countries on disaster management. It runs form 2005 to 2015. It was a roadmap for the government and other players.
  1. Yogyakarta declaration includes calls to integrated local knowledge and climate change into disaster management plans, political commitment, accountability, awareness and education, and to build local capacity.

Disaster Risk Reduction Framework

  1. A policy framework has to be drawn up backed by the legal and institutional mechanisms that focuses on risk reduction as the major priority in disaster management.
  2. Assessment of risk including hazard analysis and community vulnerability.
  1. Risk Awareness and Preparation of Plans for Risk Mitigation.
  1. Implementation of the Plan.
  1. Early Warning Systems.
  1. Development of systems for processing and sharing of disaster related information.

INDIA’S KEY HAZARDS, VULNERABILITIES AND THE CRISIS RESPONSE MECHANISM

  1. Almost 85% of the country is vulnerable to single or multiple disasters and about 57% of its area lies in high seismic zones. Approximately 40 million hectares of the country’s land area is prone to flood, about 8% of the total land mass is vulnerable to cyclone and 68% of the area is susceptible to drought.
  2. There is no reason why so much loss happens in India whereas earthquakes of similar measurements in USA or Japan have had relatively little impact.
  1. Post monsoon cyclones are usually more intense both in numbers and intensity.

Cyclone Shelters

  1. In densely populated coastal areas, where large scale evacuations are not always feasible, public buildings can be used as cyclone shelters.
  1. These buildings can be so designed, so as to provide a blank face with a minimum number of apertures in the direction of the prevailing winds. The shorter side of the building should face the storm, so as to impart least wind resistance.
  1. Green belts can be used in front of these buildings to reduce the impact of the storm.

Traditional Knowledge for Disaster Management

  1. If tribals in the Andamans could survive the tsunami, it was because their existing warning systems worked well in comparison to our non-existent modern systems.
  1. The fact that traditional houses of wood and stone survived the Uttarkashi earthquake not so long ago while modern buildings collapsed offered a similar lesson.
  1. In the flood-prone rural North-East, one can find houses on bamboo stilts that allow flood waters to flow under them rather than through or over!

Flood Control and Management

  1. There should be a master plan for flood control and management for each flood prone basin.
  1. Adequate flood-cushion should be provided in water storage projects. In highly flood prone areas, flood control should be given overriding consideration in reservoir policy even at the cost of sacrificing some irrigation or power benefits.
  1. While physical flood protection works like embankments and dykes will continue to be necessary, increased emphasis should be laid on non-structural measures such as flood forecasting, flood plain zoning and flood proofing.
  1. There should be strict regulation of settlements in the flood plain zones along with flood proofing.

Landslides and Avalanches

  1. The Himalayas comprise of tectonically unstable younger formations and often the slides are huge, and in most cases, the overburden along with the underlying lithology is displaced during sliding. In contrast, the Western Ghats are geologically stable and the slides are usually confined to the over burden without affecting the bedrock beneath.
  1. Structural measures:
  1. Planting (Avalanche Prevention Forest)
  1. Stepped Terraces
  1. Avalanche Control Fence
  1. Other protection structures
  1. Non-structural measures – removing snow deposits on slopes by blasting, predicting avalanches and evacuating people from vulnerable areas.

 

Industrial Disasters

  1. In the pre-Bhopal Gas Tragedy era, industrial safety was governed by legislations like the Factories Act, 1948 and the Explosives Act, 1884. These laws proved to be inadequate to provide safety to workers as well as to the people living in the surrounding areas. After the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, a new chapter was inserted in the Factories Act, 1948 dealing with hazardous processes. The Environment Protection Act, 1986 was enacted. More importantly, several Rules were promulgated under the Act.

Rail Disaster Management

It is an integral part of railway safety. However, earlier the disaster management was confined to reacting to the railway accidents. After the NDMA, 2005 the Railway ministry has developed an integrated disaster management plan. As per this plan,

  1. The railway zones and railway divisions have been made the nodal agencies for planning, mitigation and relief within their zones.
  1. The Plan is not focused towards reacting to the accidents only, but it also includes, terrorist attacks, natural disasters affecting the railways, crowd management during festivals or natural calamities. It heavily relies on modern technology like CCTVs, ACDs, satellite communications, upgraded signaling systems, self propelled accident relief vans, modern cranes, luggage scanners.
  2. It emphasizes in relief during golden hours (first hour of the accident) i.e. reach the spot within 1 hour. Training is done at Bangalore in the disaster relief operations.
  1. The Railway Protection Force is developing a rapid action team to be trained by NSG to respond to the terrorist attacks on railway trains and assets.
  1. Railway officials to maintain contact with the general administrative authorities in their areas for prompt relief in case of the disasters.

Creeping Emergencies

  1. Disasters can also be classified as ‘slow onset’ disasters and ‘rapid onset’ disasters. Earthquakes, cyclones, floods, tsunamis would fall under the category of rapid onset disasters; climate change (global warming), desertification, soil degradation, and droughts, would fall under the category of slow onset disasters. Slow onset disasters are also termed as ‘Creeping Emergencies’.

Sea Erosion

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