What is a Disaster?

  • A disaster is a result of natural or man-made causes that leads to sudden disruption of normal life,causing severe damage to life and property to an extent those available social and economic protection mechanisms are inadequate to cope.
  • It is an undesirable occurrenceresulting from forces that are largely outside human control. It strikes quickly with little or no warning and requires major efforts in providing statutory emergency service.

What is a Hazard?

  • The word ‘hazard’ owes its origin to the word ‘hasard’ in old French and ‘az-zahr’ in Arabic meaning ‘chance’ or ‘luck’. Hazard may be defined as “a dangerous condition or event, that threat or have the potential for causing injury to life or damage to property or the environment.”
  • Any hazard – flood, earthquake or cyclone along with greater vulnerability (inadequate access to resources, sick and old people, lack of awareness etc.) would lead to disaster causing greater loss to life and property.
  • For example; an earthquake in an uninhabited desert cannot be considered a disaster, no matter how strong the intensities produced. An earthquake is disastrous only when it affects people, their properties and activities. Thus, disaster occurs only when hazards and vulnerability meet. Also, with greater capacity of the individual/community and environment to face these disasters, the impact of a hazard reduces

Classification of Disasters

  • Disasters are classified as per origin, into natural and man-made disasters. As per severity,disasters are classified as minor or major (in impact).
  • Natural disasters are sudden ecological disruptionsor threats that exceed the adjustment capacity of the affected community and require external assistance.
  • Natural disasters can be broadly classified into categories including geophysicalsuch as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions; hydrological such as floods; meteorological such as hurricanes; climatological such as heat and cold waves and droughts; and biological such as epidemics.
  • Man-made disasters can include hazardous material spills, fires, groundwater contamination, transportation accidents, structure failures, mining accidents, explosions and acts of terrorism.

Disaster Management Cycle

  • Disaster Risk Management includes sum total of all activities, programmes and measures which can be taken up before, during and after a disaster.
  • A typical disaster management continuum consists of:
  • A Pre-disaster risk management phase which includes prevention, mitigation and preparedness.
  • Post-disaster crisis management phase which includes relief, response, rehabilitation, reconstruction and recovery.
  • The three key stages of activities that are taken up within disaster risk management are:
  1. Before a disaster (pre-disaster)
  • It includes activities taken to reduce human and property losses caused by a potential hazard. For example-carrying out awareness campaigns, strengthening the existing weak structures, preparation of the disaster management plans at household and community level etc.
  • Such risk reduction measures taken under this stage are termed as mitigation and preparedness activities.
  1. During a disaster (disaster occurrence)
  • Initiatives taken to ensure that the needs and provisions of victims are met and suffering is minimized. Activities taken under this stage are called emergency response activities.
  1. After a disaster (post-disaster)
  • Initiatives taken in response to a disaster with a purpose to achieve early recovery and rehabilitation of affected communities, immediately after a disaster strikes. These are called as response and recovery activities

Causes for Occurrence of Disaster

  • Environmental degradation:Removal of trees and forest cover from a watershed area have caused, soil erosion, expansion of flood plain area in upper and middle course of rivers and groundwater depletion.
  • Developmental process:Exploitation of land use, development of infrastructure, rapid urbanization and technological development have caused increasing pressure over the natural resources.
  • Political issues:War, nuclear power aspirations, fight between countries to become super power and conquering land, sea and skies. These have resulted into wide range of disaster events such as Hiroshima nuclear explosion, Syrian civil war, growing militarisation of oceans and outer space.
  • Industrialization:This has resulted into warming of earth and frequency of extreme weather events has also increased.


Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)

  • Disaster risk reduction is the concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyse and reduce the causal factors of disasters.
  • Pre-Disaster risk reduction includes-
    • Mitigation:To eliminate or reduce the impacts and risks of hazards through proactive measures taken before an emergency or disaster occurs.
    • Preparedness:To take steps to prepare and reduce the effects of disasters.
  • Post-Disaster risk reduction includes-
    • Rescue:Providing warning, evacuation, search, rescue, providing immediate assistance.
    • Relife:To respond to communities who become victims of disaster, providing relief measures such as food packets, water, medicines, temporary accommodation, relief camps etc.
    • Recovery:This stage emphasises upon recovery of victims of disaster, recovery of damaged infrastructure and repair of the damages caused.

Challenges in Disaster Risk Reduction

  • There are insufficient levels of implementationfor each monitored activity. For example, Disaster risk management plans or a risk sensitive building codes exist but they are not enforced because of a lack of government capacity or public awareness.
  • There is lack of local capacitiesto implement disaster risk management. Weak capacity at the local levels undermines the implementation Disaster preparedness plans.
  • Absence of integration of climate change into Disaster risk management plans.
  • There is divergence of obtaining political and economic commitmentsdue to other competing needs and priorities such as poverty reduction, social welfare, education etc. require greater attention and funding.
  • Due to poor coordination between stakeholders,there is inadequate access with respect to risk assessment, monitoring, early warning, disaster response and other Disaster related activities.
  • Insufficient investment in building disaster resilient strategies,also private sector is least contributors in the share of investment.

Impacts of Disaster

  • Disaster impacts individuals physically(through loss of life, injury, health, disability) as well as psychologically.
  • Disaster results in huge economic lossdue to destruction of property, human settlements and infrastructure etc.
  • Disaster can alter the natural environment, loss of habitat to many plants and animals and cause ecological stress that can result in biodiversity loss.
  • After natural disasters, food and other natural resources like water often becomes scarce resulting into foodand water scarcity.
  • The disaster results in displacement of people, and displaced population often face several challenges in new settlements, in this process poorer becomes more poor.
  • Disaster increases the level of vulnerabilityand hence multiply the effects of disaster

Organisations and Policies related to Disaster Management Framework at National level

A) National Disaster Management Authority of India (NDMA)

  • It was established in 2005,under the Disaster Management Act 2005.
  • The objective of NDMA is, to build a safer and disaster resilient Indiaby a holistic, proactive, technology driven and sustainable development strategy.
  • The NDMA is chaired by the Prime Minister of Indiaand has a vice chairman with the status of Cabinet Minister and eight members with the status of Ministers of State.
  • The NDMA Secretariat is headed by a Secretary and deals with mitigation, preparedness, plans, reconstruction, community awareness and financial and administrative aspects.

B) National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP)

  • It was released in 2016,it is the first ever national plan prepared in the country for disaster management.
  • With National Disaster Management Plan (2016) India has aligned its National plan with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, to which India is a signatory.
  • The objective of the plan is to make India disaster resilient, achieve substantial disaster risk reduction. It aims to significantly decrease the losses of life, livelihoods, and assets in terms of economic, physical, social, cultural, and environmental. To maximize the ability to cope with disasters at all levels of administration as well as among communities.

C) State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA)

  • At State level, State Disaster Management Authorities are established under Disaster Management Act 2005.
  • SDMA is chaired by the Chief Minister of the Stateand has not more than eight members who are appointed by the Chief Minister.
  • The SDMA prepares the state disaster management plan and implements the National Disaster Management Plan.

D) District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA)

  • Under Disaster Management Act 2005, every State government shall establish a DDMA for every district in the State.
  • The DDM Authority shall consist of:
    • Chairperson –the Collector or District Magistrate or Deputy Commissioner act as Chairperson of DDMA.
    • Co-Chairperson –is the elected representative of the local authority. In the Tribal Areas, the Chief Executive Member of the district council of autonomous district is the co-chairperson.
  • There are not more than seven other members in DDMA.
  • The Disaster Management Committee governed under District Magistrate will formulate village level disaster management plansfor concern villages.
  • The DDMA makes District Disaster Management Plan and implements the state Disaster Management Plan

Drawbacks of the National Disaster Management Act, 2005

  • The implementation of the National Disaster Act, 2005 has been slow, and slack. There was a seven year delay, from 2006 to 2013, in finalising the National Plan on Disaster Management which was finally released in 2016.
  • The act has been criticized for marginalizing Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), elected local representatives, local communities and civic groups. It has also been accused of fostering a hierarchical, bureaucratic, command and control, ‘top down’, approach that gives the central, state, and district authorities sweeping powers.
  • A performance audit report of the disaster management mechanism in the country by was released by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in 2013.
  • The CAG report highlighted several other loopholes in the functioning of NDMA.
    • It said none of the major projects taken up by NDMA was complete. The projects were either abandoned midway or were being redesigned because of initial poor planning.
    • As per the CAG report, NDMA has also not been performing several functions such as recommending provision of funds for the purpose of mitigation and recommending relief in repayment of loans.
    • It also highlighted that several critical posts in NDMA were vacant and consultants were used for day to day working.
    • The Public Accounts Committee submitted its report on ‘Disaster Preparedness in India’ in December 2015. It made the following observations:
    • Under the Act, the National Executive Committee is required to meet at least once in three months. However, it was found that the committee met infrequently even when there had been disasters, such as the 2007 floods in
    • West Bengal and the 2008 stampede in Rajasthan.
    • The centre, states and districts had not constituted Mitigation Funds which could be utilised for disaster preparedness, restoration, etc.
    • Various projects undertaken for strengthening the communications network for disaster management were either at the planning stage, or were delayed.
    • The CAG report summary suggested that against a target of installing 219 telemetry stations (flood forecasting instrument) between 2012 and 2017, only 56 had been installed as of August 2016 and 59% of the existing telemetry stations were non-functional.
    • 27% posts in the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were vacant. The NDRF’s training institute, the National Institute of Disaster Response, had not been established, though it had been approved in 2006.

Organisations related to Disaster Management Framework at Global level

  • In 1994 the World Conference on Natural Disaster Reductionwas held in Yokohama, Japan.
  • The conference adopted the Yokohama strategyand declared the decade 1990-2000 as the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR).
  • United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)is the successor to the secretariat of IDNDR and was created in 1999 to implement UN Disaster Risk Reduction strategy.
  • The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) is a 10-year plan (2005-2015)to make the world safer from natural hazards. Priorities such as, Disaster risk reduction, identification, assessment through legal and policy frameworks, disaster preparedness and use of innovation was adopted.
  • The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030,is the successor instrument to the Hyogo Framework.
    • It is a non-binding agreement,which the signatory nations, including India, will attempt to comply with on a voluntary basis.
  • There are three international agreements within the context of the post- 2015 development agenda. These are:
    • The Sendai Framework.
    • Sustainable Development Goals 2015-2030
    • The Paris agreement (COP 21) on Climate Change.
  • These three agreements recognize the desired outcomes in Disaster Risk Reduction as a product of interconnected social and economic processes, which overlap across the agendas of the three agreements.

Some Major Issues

  • There are significant gaps in preparednesson various aspects of risk management, particularly for catastrophic disasters like major earthquakes and floods.
    • Though all of India’s states have departments of disaster managementor relief and rehabilitation, they are still poorly preparedto lend support in times of disasters, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
    • In a number of recent disasters, 2010 mudslides in Leh, Sikkim earthquake in 2011 and the Uttarakhand floods of 2013,the level of preparedness was inadequate, leading to high levels of mortality and displacement of people.
  • Facilities such as emergency operations centres, emergency communications, and search and rescue teams are being made available but these systems and facilities need to be strengthened.
  • In India Disaster management is yet to be seen as an essential part of good governance and integral to development planning.
  • The preparedness at various levels are not people-oriented.
  • India’s capacity to manage disaster risk is challenged by its size and huge population. The country is likely to have the greatest exposure of any nation in the world to extreme weather and natural disasters by 2030.
  • The northeast region is most at risk from earthquakes and lacks seismically secure infrastructure and buildings. It is also vulnerable to landslides, floods and erosion.
  • Flooding on the country’s plains is a regular occurrence, and although communities are resilient, the intensity of floods has reduced their capacity to adapt.
  • The local adaptation efforts driven solely by communities are no longer sufficient and additional, scientifically planned adaptation is needed,which will require government support.
  • The division of responsibilities under the Disaster Management Act is not very clear, resulting in its poor implementation. There also exists an overlap between the implementing agencies
  • Intense public and media scrutiny after disasters automatically leads to a higher priority being given to response, rather than risk reduction.
  • Furthermore, where risk-reduction activities are described, State Disaster Management Plans (SDMPs) does not institutionalise accountability mechanisms to ensure that departments follow these considerations in their own planning.
    • As a result, risk-reduction activities are driven by schemes and external projects, rather than by guidelines in SDMPs.
  • Because risk-reduction needs are locations specific, this gap is an opportunity for stronger, locally led risk-reduction planning by Strengthening disaster risk management in India

Suggestions

  • A clearer demarcation of national and state-level responsibilities is needed, especially regarding who is responsible for risk-reduction activities.
  • It is vital for state disaster management authorities to focus on the continued capacity-building of district disaster management authoritiesand CSOs that are responsible for managing disaster risk.
    • Capacity-building should support the planning and implementation of actions across the full disaster management cycle.
  • There is a need to revise the SDMPsto include a much greater emphasis on risk reduction, rather than just preparedness and response.
  • Existing rules and regulations that impede the inclusion of measures for risk reduction need to be amended.
  • Build partnershipswith and draw lessons from forerunner states such as Bihar and Gujarat on how to include risk reduction in plans more effectively.
  • Accountability mechanismsneed to be specified. This will ensure that departments follow disaster risk-reduction considerations in their own development planning.
  • There is an urgent need to put the National Disaster Mitigation Fund and state disaster management funds into operation.States such as Bihar, which are leading in this regard, should share lessons on how to realize this at the state level.
  • States should have decision-making power regarding whether state disaster management authorities control funds for risk reduction, or whether these are distributed to government departments.
  • Public-private partnershipsshould be looked at more seriously as alternative modes of financing. Models such as the Surat Climate Change Trust, a collaboration between the private sector and the urban local body in Surat, Gujarat, should be studied and, if suitable, replicated.
  • Risk-transfer mechanisms and insuranceshould be scaled up to support risk reduction.
  • States should include downscaled climate projections into SDMPs, so that future and evolving risks can be taken into account.
  • Using data that are already being uploaded onto platforms such as the Open Government Data Platform can help to synthesise a clearer understanding of vulnerability.
  • There is a need to expand capacity-building activitieson disaster management within departments, so that they include all stages of the disaster cycle, rather than the current emphasis on emergency response.
  • It is important to ensure the participation of nodal officials from all key state government departments while revising SDMPs; working with technical institutions and NGOs to train nodal officials is also useful.
  • The needs of women and other marginalised groups must be considered across all types of disaster risk management activity, rather than only response and relief activities, as is currently the case.
  • Publicly available census data on sex, age and disability need to be included in vulnerability analyses.
  • Clearer guidelines need to be issued for the genuine participation of vulnerable communities in processes to develop district disaster management plans.
  • Officials from state disaster management authorities should be trained in gender-responsive budgeting and gender mainstreaming.
  • Collaboration with state and central scientific institutions would help state disaster management authorities to track changing risk and risk of losses through modeling,rather than only measuring disaster impacts.
  • The National Disaster Management Authority should prepare guidelines and/ or a framework to support subnational governments in aligning with the Sendai Framework.

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