Sunday, March 1, 2015

Disaster Management

The recent Uttarakhand & Kashmir floods and its uncontrollable aftermath have once again brought up the overarching importance of Disaster Management , understanding and predicting a hazard and taking preventive action for it as well as corrective and remedying action post a disaster.

Now, before proceeding further it is imperative for one to understand the fragile yet important relation between a Hazard & Disaster.

A) HAZARD: A potentially damaging physical event,phenomenon or human activity that may cause the loss of life or injury, property damage, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation. They can be natural or man made and single,sequential or combined in their origin and effects.

When a Hazard turns into reality it is termed as a Disaster. It proceeds by cause-effect due to endogenous (inherent) & exogenous (external) factors that combine to excite the phenomenon into a large scale destructive event. Disaster Management is an attempt to inquire into the process of a hazard turning to a disaster and identify the causes and rectify the same through public policy.

Under the chairmanship of J.C. Pant, a High Powered Committee was constituted in Aug '99 grouped disasters into the following five categories,based on generic consideration:

1) Water & Climate: Floods,cyclones,tornadoes,hailstorms,cloudbursts,heat/cold wave,snow avalanches,drought,sea erosion,thunder/lightning.

2) Geological: Landslides,mudflows,earthquakes,large fires,dam failures and bursts,mine fires.

3) Biological: Epidemics,pest attacks,cattle epidemics,food poisoning.

4) Chemical, Industrial & Nuclear: Chemical and Industrial disasters, nuclear disasters.

5) Accidental: Forest fires, urban fires, mine flooding, oil spills, major building collapse, serial bomb blasts, festival related disasters, electrical disasters and fires, air and road and rail accidents, boat capsizing, village fire.


Air Accidents
Ministry of Civil Aviation
Civil Strife
Ministry of Home Affairs
Major breakdown of any of the Essential Services posing widespread problem
Concerned Ministries
Chemical Disasters
Ministry Of Environment
Biological Disaster
Ministry of Health
Nuclear Accident inside/outside the country which poses health or other hazards to people of India.
Department of Atomic Energy

But there are still many that are missing like heat waves & migrant issues. Also it is being increasingly realized that many natural disasters are also due to man made causes, reason being policy disasters rather than as a result of nature's vagaries or designs of fate.

Experience of floods in India has proven that more deaths are caused due to epidemic outbreaks following vector proliferation in accumulated waters rather than the flood itself which proves the system failure.

The lack of timely decision making & action after droughts by the govt. leads to multiple deaths of farmers.

Earthquakes are majorly increased in today's times due to abuse of natural resources by man alongwith bad policy decisions.

Disasters also lead to major economic damage and diversion of financial resources to non plan expenditures instead of plan development expenditures.

1) Coastal states particularly on the East Coast & Gujarat are vulnerable to cyclones.

2) 4 crore hectare landmass is vulnerable to floods.

3) 68% of net sown area is prone to droughts.

4) 55% of total area is in seismic zones III - V, hence prone to earthquakes.

5) Sub-Himalayan sector & Western Ghats are prone to landslides.


1) Road/Traffic accidents
2) Nuclear, Chemical & Biological threats
3) International terrorism
4) Communal riots
6) Food insecurity, poverty, worsening health care,dirty water & sanitation, uncontrolled urbanisation & common disease.
7) Civil war & International wars

These are just a few to name, the list goes on. The few actions taken are that now Disaster Management has become a part of plan commitments thus getting it  more priority and more resource allocations. Retrofitting & Earthquake resistant structures et al are being undertaken too.

The agenda now according to the 10th Plan for disaster management is development of capacity at local levels through effective decentralisation, improvement in law and order administration, through modernisation & training, urban development with a perspective of disaster mitigation planning involving all stakeholders.


All this calls for a thorough vulnerability( threat) profiling of India to remedy the above.

Following steps are imperative for the vulnerability assessment and preparedness in high risk zones:

1) Identification of various hazard prone areas. Preparation of detailed vulnerability profiles, mapping food insecurity, aviation hazard, landslide hazard, etc.

2) Vulnerability & Risk assessment of buildings.

3) Developing disaster damage scenarios.

4) Developing technical guidelines for hazard resistant construction.

5) Upgrading of hazard resistance of existing housing stock by retrofitting.

6) Crafting techno-legal regime to be adopted for infrastructure development.


1) Global warming & Extreme climate: This leads to El Nino & La Nina having increased impacts leading to disasters. Entire water system is being disrupted by melting of Himalayan glaciers. A large number of deaths are caused due to heat and cold waves from northern and coastal states.

2) Agro Forestry: Large scale deforestation across the globe coupled with faulty management practices have resulted in all kinds of environmental degradations such as wind and water erosion, physical & chemical degradation of soil, water & biodiversity, global warming, floods,droughts & desertifications.

Agro forestry is the solution to all these issues.

Agro Forestry: Agroforestry or agro-sylviculture is a land use management system in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops or pastureland. It combines agricultural and forestry technologies to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy, and sustainable land-use systems. ( source - Wikipedia)

Lets summarise the benefits of Agro - Forestry:

a) Control of soil degradation
b) Control of desertification
c) Flood control
d) Drought Moderation
e) Reduction in groundwater pollution caused by high inputs of fertilisers
f) Increasing biodiversity in farming and watershed scale.
g) Increasing food security and reducing pressure on land
h) Checking deforestation and its impact on environment
i) Reducing pressure on forests though on farm supply of fuel wood,fodder and other forest products
j) Reduction in build up of atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases
k) Disaster prevention,rehabilitation & reconstruction

3) Urban Risks: Rapid urbanisation is increasing at unprecedented levels. High density areas with poorly built and maintained infrastructure are subjected to natural hazards, environmental degradation,fires,flooding & earthquakes.


Development should never come at the cost of environment. We all have seen the effects of commercialisation & development activities in Uttarakhand & Delhi and other states. Therefore, what is required are proper eco-friendly and environment friendly development policies.