Disaster Management GS-3

DISASTER MANAGEMENT (DM)
This article caters to the Disaster Management (DM) portion of General Studies-Paper III in UPSC Mains examination.
Massive disaster in Uttarakhand in the year 2013 and recent floods in Jammu & Kashmir and the destruction caused by cyclone ‘Hudhud’ on the Coromondal coast have again brought into limelight targeted need for effective disaster management strategies in the country for addressing comprehensive– preventive, curative and rehabilitative needs of the disaster struck areas of the country. Being one of the most disaster prone countries, the disaster management in India is of utmost importance. Considering this, let us now embark on a brief journey of understanding disaster and disaster management in our country.

What is a disaster? 

A disaster is a natural or man-made (or technological) hazard resulting in an event of substantial extent causing significant physical damage or destruction, loss of life, or drastic change to the environment. It can also be defined as an event or series of events, which gives rise to casualties and damage or loss of properties, infrastructures, environment, essential services or means of livelihood on such a scale which is beyond the normal capacity of the affected community to cope with.

Types of Disasters Broadly, disasters can be divided into(i) Natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods, cyclones, landslides etc. and (ii) Manmade disasters such as radiation leaks, chemical and oil spillage, wars and conflicts, industrial and transportation accidents etc.

What is meant by Disaster Management (DM)?

Disaster management (DM) means managing resources and various responsibilities to deal with all humanitarian aspects of emergencies. It involves a continuous and integrated process of planning, organizing, coordinating and implementing measures which are necessary or expedient for: (i) prevention of danger or threat of any disaster; (ii) mitigation or reduction of risk of any disaster or its severity or consequences; (iii) capacity building including research and knowledge management; (iv) preparedness to deal with any disaster; (v) prompt response to any threatening disaster situation or disaster; (vi) assessing the severity or magnitude of effects of any disaster; (vii) evacuation, rescue and relief ; and (viii) rehabilitation and reconstruction.
A typical DM continuum thus comprises of seven elements; the pre-disaster phase includes prevention, mitigation and preparedness, while the post-disaster phase includes response, rehabilitation, reconstruction and recovery (4R). Basic principles of Disaster Management (DM) comprises of: (i) comprehensive approach to consider and take into account all hazards, all phases, all stakeholders and all impacts relevant to disasters; (ii) progressive in nature to anticipate future disasters and take preventive and preparatory measures to build disaster-resistant and disaster-resilient communities; (iii) risk-driven to use sound risk management principles (hazard identification, risk analysis, and impact analysis) in assigning priorities and resources; (iv) integrated to ensure unity of effort among all levels of government and all elements of a community; (v) collaborative to create and sustain broad and sincere relationships among individuals and organizations to encourage trust, advocate a team atmosphere, build consensus, and facilitate communication; (vi) coordinated to synchronize the activities of all relevant stakeholders to achieve a common purpose; (vii) flexible to use creative and innovative approaches in solving disaster challenges; and (viii) professional attitude to value a science and knowledge-based approach; based on education, training, experience, ethical practice, public stewardship and continuous improvement.

Why DM is crucial for India?

India due to its geo-climatic and socio-economic condition is prone to various disasters. The Indian subcontinent is among the world’s most disaster prone areas. Almost 85% of India’s area is vulnerable to one or multiple hazard. Of the 29 states and 7 union territories, 22 are disaster-prone. 58.6 per cent of the landmass is prone to earthquakes of moderate to very high intensity; over 40 million hectares (12 per cent of land) is prone to floods and river erosion; Of the 7,516 km long coastline, close to 5,700 km is prone to cyclones and tsunamis; 68 per cent of the cultivable area is vulnerable to drought and hilly areas are at risk from landslides and avalanches. Vulnerability to disasters/ emergencies of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) origin also exists. Heightened vulnerabilities to disaster risks can be related to expanding population, urbanization and industrialization, development within high-risk zones, environmental degradation and climate change.

                                                                 Evolution of DM in India: Disaster management in India has evolved from an activity-based reactive setup to a proactive institutionalized structure; from single faculty domain to a multi-stakeholder setup; and from a relief-based approach to a ‘multi-dimensional pro-active holistic approach for reducing risk’. A permanent and institutionalized setup began in the decade of 1990s with set up of a disaster management cell under the Ministry of Agriculture, following the declaration of the decade of 1990 as the ‘International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction’ (IDNDR) by the UN General Assembly.
                                                                Following series of disasters such as Latur Earthquake (1993), Malpa Landslide (1994), Orissa Super Cyclone (1999) and Bhuj Earthquake (2001), a high powered Committee under the Chairmanship of Mr. J.C. Pant, Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture was constituted for drawing up a systematic, comprehensive and holistic approach towards disasters.
There was a shift in policy from an approach of relief through financial aid to a holistic one for addressing disaster management. Consequently, the disaster management division was shifted under the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2002.

Current institutional structure for DM in India:

Disaster Management Act, 2005, paved way for the creation of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), headed by the Prime Minister, State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) headed by the Chief Ministers, and District Disaster Management Authorities (DDMAs) headed by the Collector or District Magistrate or Deputy Commissioner as the case may be, to spearhead and adopt a holistic and integrated approach to DM. The Act further provides for the constitution of different Executive Committee at national and state levels.

National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC)-

It comprises of high level officials of the government headed by the Cabinet Secretary, deals with major crises which have serious or national ramifications. It is supported by the Crisis Management Groups (CMG) of the Central nodal Ministries and assisted by National Executive Committee (NEC) as may be necessary.

National Executive Committee (NEC) – 

The NEC is the executive committee of the NDMA, and is mandated to assist the NDMA in the discharge of its functions and also ensure compliance of the directions issued by the Central Government. State Executive Committee (SEC) in states assists SDMA and coordinates with NDMA.

National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) has capacity building as one of its major responsibilities, along with training, research, documentation and development of a national level information base.

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is constituted to emerge as the most visible and vibrant multi-disciplinary, multi-skilled, high-tech force capable to deal with all types of natural as well as manmade disasters and to mitigate the effects of disasters. NDRF units are supposed to maintain close liaison with the designated State Governments and are made available to them in the event of any serious threatening disaster situation.

Other stakeholders are -Armed forces and Para-Military forces, State Police and Fire Services, Civil Defence, Home Guards and Local Authorities which include Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI), Municipalities, District and Cantonment Boards and Town planning authorities which control and manage civic services.

National policy on disaster management:

The national policy emphasizes on- (i) promoting a culture of prevention, preparedness and resilience at all levels through knowledge, innovation and education; (ii) encouraging mitigation measures based on technology, traditional wisdom and environmental sustainability; (iii) mainstreaming disaster management into the developmental planning process; (iv) establishing institutional and techno-legal frameworks to create an enabling regulatory environment and a compliance regime; (v) ensuring efficient mechanism for identification, assessment and monitoring of disaster risks; (vi) developing contemporary forecasting and early warning systems backed by responsive and failsafe communication with information technology support; (vii) promoting a productive partnership with the media to create awareness and contributing towards capacity development; (viii) ensuring efficient response and relief with a caring approach towards the needs of the vulnerable sections of the society; (ix) undertaking reconstruction as an opportunity to build disaster resilient structures and habitat for ensuring safer living; (x) promoting productive and proactive partnership with media in disaster management

Current Scenario: 

With a settled institutionalized structure and sound policy, India has designed and developed adequate disaster management system suitable for Indian conditions. But what exactly required is the drastic evolution in the actual on-field responses in disaster prone areas both in pre and post disaster phases.

Recently, though the number of casualties in the recent Phailin and Hudhud cyclones has been substantially reduced but there is still more emphasis on relief and rescue. Rehabilitation and reconstruction feature low on priority as most of the disaster affected people are left to fend for themselves to rebuild their lives post disaster.

In order to strengthen the entire mechanism and to realize the vision emphasized in the national policy statement, the entire disaster management approach should address each component of disaster management cycle in totality. This can only be done by employing sound and coordinated preparedness and response systems alongwith fast, efficient and sustainable- recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation. To fructify this, involvement of various stakeholders, efficient inter-departmental coordination and need to constantly review and improve the systems in place are required.

 

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