Disasters are a part of the human race. Facing disasters is natural but the worrying thing is that there has been a dramatic increase in natural disasters in the last few years. The damage done to the human race by disasters is a serious issue nationally as well as internationally. Look back at the past decade; the rate of man-made disasters and natural disasters is increasing significantly.
During the period 1994 to 1998, the average number of disasters per year was 428 which increased to 707 between 1999 and 2003. It was a sharp rise of 60% over the previous years. The greatest booms came in countries where human development was low. Different types of disasters that result in significant damage include droughts, floods, technical disasters and rising temperatures, hurricanes and many more. All of these events result in global economic losses that exceed US $ 1000 billion each year.
Floods are becoming a common phenomenon in India. Over the past few decades, areas facing recurring disasters have become relatively better prepared, with an increased understanding of the risks. This is not true for areas that have not experienced a major disaster in the recent past. Ignoring all safety guidelines, dwellings, factories and infrastructure have been built in areas that are potentially vulnerable to natural hazards such as floods.
The scene in India
India’s unique geo-climatic conditions and high socio-economic vulnerability to disasters are responsible for the increase in natural disasters. Which causes heavy losses across the states. India is profoundly defenceless against floods, avalanches, heat/cold waves, cyclones, landslides, earthquake, droughts and lightnings.
As per the National Disaster Management Authority, about 40 million hectares of land in India is under floods (about 12 % of overall land), 68 % of land is vulnerable to droughts, landslides and avalanches, 58.6 percent of the land area is prone to earthquakes, and tsunamis and cyclones are a regular occurrence for 5,700 km of 7,516-km long coastline. Such sensitive situations have made India one of the top disaster-prone countries.
As per the Global Climate Risk Index Report 2019, India is the fourteenth most weak country in the world because of extreme climate related events. The report also notes that disasters in India killed about 2,736 people in 2017, the second highest after Puerto Rico, with 2,978 deaths. In addition, the economic loss in India due to such disasters is about $ 13,789 million, which is the 4th highest in the world.
Between 1970 and 2009, India experienced 371 natural disasters, killing 151,000 people and affecting 1.86 billion. Floods are the most frequent disasters in India, accounting for 52 per cent of the total incidence of disasters, followed by cyclones (30 per cent), landslides (10 per cent), earthquakes (5 %) and droughts (2 %).
Natural disasters not only badly affect the human and physical wealth but also pose a serious threat to India’s economic growth. The 2019 article in the Indian Growth and Development Review (in publication) by Yashobanta Parida and Devi Prasad Dash empirically confirms that flood damage adversely affects per capita GSDP (Gross State Domestic Product) growth across states.
Moreover, frequent disasters increase the financial pressure on the Central and State Governments, in addition to worsening the social and economic condition of the people. Natural disasters also add to the plight of farmers and are largely responsible for farmer suicides. According to a 2018 article in Economics of Disaster and Climate Change by Parida, Bhardwaj, Dash and Roy Chaudhary, natural disasters, especially droughts and floods, have led to an increase in farmer suicides in India due to crop damage.
According to reports of accidental deaths and suicides in India, about 2,61,779 people were killed due to natural disasters and the average annual death rate between 1967 and 2016 was 5,236. To classify, 92,224 died from lightning, 44,923 from cold waves, 36,631 from heat stroke, 32, 213 from landslides, 29,897 from floods and 25,891 from cyclones.
After each disaster, its consequences and adverse effects raise many questions about the state of preparedness. It is important to acknowledge that we are not yet fully prepared. This is because disaster management agencies remain reactive in their actions. Following the floods in Uttarakhand in 2013 and the floods in Kashmir in 2014, flood forecasting stations were set up in these two states and many questions were raised and criticized on preparedness practices. The same should have happened to all the flood-hit states, but it seems we have not learned from our mistakes. We become reactive rather than focusing on preparedness.
Disaster management plans are on paper, but implementation is a challenge. Despite the government’s emphasis on a paradigm shift toward preparedness, most parts of the country continue to pursue a relief-focused approach to disaster management rather than active prevention, mitigation and preparedness. There is a need to invest in disaster preparedness and mitigation across the country, whether any state is a victim of disaster or not. India needs to adopt a collaborative approach, where the roles of governments, corporations, academics, civil societies and communities are recognized and all actors work together to achieve disaster resilience.
The significance of Disaster Management
Simple term disaster management involves a whole set of disaster-related activities. Some see it as just a mean to help people after a disaster. It is linked to post-disaster activities carried out by relief and reconstruction officers. However, disaster management is much better than the post-disaster activities. It not only covers post-disaster activities but also pre-disaster activities.
Although it is important to work to control disaster damage on all fronts, trends suggest the need for strong and rapid policy action to protect human damage caused by lightning deaths. To reduce casualties from natural disasters across states, we suggest some measures that can help reduce casualties to some extent.
First, in an article on environment and development economics by Parida, it is suggested that not only per capita income but also better political cooperation between the central and state governments will help reduce the risk of disaster. Second, the high public costs for the construction of dams and drainage and for the protection of riverbanks and canals for disaster resistant infrastructure are of great importance.
Third, the establishment of advanced disaster warning systems, especially in low-lying areas, is essential to accurately predict rainfall in coastal areas. Fourth, to reduce deaths due to heat waves and lightning, public measures such as planting palm trees, awareness campaigns on the impact of the disaster by the media in the months of high heat and humidity should be carried out.
Recently, a report by the World Economic Forum stated that Bangladesh is planting 5 million palm trees to prevent deaths from lightning strikes. India can follow similar lines to reduce casualties due to lightning storms. Strong coordination between the Central and State Governments, both pre-disaster and post-disaster, is needed to reduce the loss of life in disasters across states.
Disaster Management Activities
The modern disaster manager is busy finding and planning measures that can help reduce disaster damage. Those assigned with responsibilities are those who work in the field of development and are part of an urban, agricultural, economic and regional development project. One of the best examples is of housing experts who prepare low-income housing projects to help people in a disaster area. It is the responsibility of the experts to build such houses which can minimize the damage in future disasters. Homes should reflect disaster-resistant construction strategies.
Challenges to Disaster Management
India is the 10th most disaster-prone country in the world with 27 out of 29 states and seven union territories being the most vulnerable.
About 60% of the land area is prone to earthquakes of varying intensity, more than 40 million hectares are prone to flooding, about 8% of the total area is prone to cyclones, and 68% of the area is prone to drought.
Lack of institutional structure at central / state / district level, poor inter-departmental coordination, lack of early warning system, slow response of relief agencies, lack of trained / dedicated search and rescue teams and weak community empowerment are the standard challenges.
Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is virtually non-existent and even where such SOP exists, the relevant authorities are unaware of it.
States also suffer from inadequate coordination between various government departments and other stakeholders.
Disaster Risk Insurance
- Disaster risk insurance is one of the financial tools available as a measure of relief
- It triggers payments by the insurer when a disaster strikes, e.g. When a tsunami comes or rain falls below a certain threshold.
- At its most basic level, insurance commits a person or entity to pay a predefined amount at regular intervals (premium) into a common fund (the scheme), from which cash is retrieved (pay-out) to compensate for losses emerging from a predefined event (coverage).
- Disaster risk insurance covers hazards arising from geological, meteorological, hydrological, climatological, marine, biological and technological / man-made events or a combination thereof.
- Natural hazards include earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, droughts, and freezing.
- Insurance can also be taken against man-made hazards including air / water / soil pollution, nuclear radiation, toxic waste, shutdown failure, transport accidents, factory explosions, fires and chemical.
Disaster Management and development activities
Coming into the agriculture zone, experts have to plan the project in such a way that they can prevent future environmental degradation due to droughts, floods or other natural disasters. Most of the disaster management activities are linked to development projects. Only a few activities revolve around an emergency response. It’s about everything, emergency assistance, long-term maintenance and livelihood arrangements for displaced persons. The main thing is to take care of the refugees. The refugee sector is a broad term that requires development skills and a full awareness of legal, political and humanitarian issues.
The need of the hour
Disaster management helps the country to know about the potential risks of disasters. It answers many questions like how, when, where can disasters come? This study enables to know the problems that may arise in the event of a disaster. If we talk about statistics, about 59% of the land area in India is vulnerable to seismic crisis. About 5% of the area is susceptible to flooding and about 8% is susceptible to cyclones.
The percentage is higher when we talk about drought-prone farmland. The figure is 70%. There are various other parts that are prone to avalanches and landslides. Therefore, the problem of natural disasters arises in all regions. They also cause great loss of life and property. To address all the problems, it becomes necessary for the country to establish an efficient disaster management system that can monitor pre-disaster development projects as well as post-disaster activities.
Working on Capacity
The term capacity is very important in disaster management. It is another name for tools and resources that serve as a strong base for coping with the effects of a disaster. It prepares regions for disaster response, prevention or mitigation of effects and then quickly recovers from damage. Capacity can be further divided into two groups: physical ability and socio-economic ability.
Simply put, a disaster management system is the key to disaster risk reduction. The first advantage of system is readiness that gives governments, citizens and the communities to react quickly with the disaster solutions. It can be in the form of competent emergency plans, warning systems, inventory management, evacuation plans and proper training of personnel. Another advantage is the reduction in losses in terms of life, property and livelihood.