LETTER TO EDITOR
|Year : 2015 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 67-68
Tackling disasters… Are we prepared?
Farha Yesmin, Rupali Baruah
Department of Community Medicine, Gauhati Medical College, Guwahati, Assam, India
|Date of Web Publication||13-Jan-2015|
Department of Community Medicine, Gauhati Medical College, Guwahati, Assam
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Yesmin F, Baruah R. Tackling disasters… Are we prepared?. Indian J Community Med 2015;40:67-8
In June 2013, "Himalayan Tsunami" made headlines all over the globe. The flash floods and landslides caused by sudden heavy rains in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh affected lakhs of people, washed away hundreds of villages, killed at least 6000 people and stranded around 70,000 religious pilgrims in the mountains for weeks. 
As we march ahead in 2014, one question still remains, "Are we prepared to tackle another disaster?"
India on account of its unique geo-climatic conditions is highly vulnerable to disasters. In all, 27 of Indian states and union territories are disaster prone; 58.6% of the landmass is prone to earthquakes; 12% of land prone to floods and river erosion; 76% of the coastline prone to cyclones and tsunamis; 68% of the cultivable area vulnerable to drought and hilly areas are at risk from landslides and avalanches. 
India came up with the the Disaster Management Act in 2005, following series of disasters such as Latur Earthquake (1993), Malpa Landslide (1994), Orissa Super Cyclone (1999), and Bhuj Earthquake (2001). There was a shift in policy from an approach of relief through financial aid to a holistic one for addressing disaster management. 
The Act provides for setting up of Disaster Management Authority at the national, state, and district level under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister, Chief Minister, District Collectors/District Magistrates/Deputy Commissioners, respectively. The Act further provides for the constitution of national and state Executive Committee, National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) for capacity building, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) for response and Disaster Mitigation Fund. 
However, the recent Uttarakhand tragedy raised many questions on the shortcomings of the Disaster management Act.
According to a report issued by the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses in 2012, even after 6 years of the enactment of the Act, State Disaster Management Authority is not functional. In some states, the department for disaster management is the changed name of the department of relief and rehabilitation, home guards, and emergency fire services with ad hoc personnel. They prepare and respond to disasters as and when the situation arises. The report concluded that the civil administration rely on the armed forces for major emergency responses. 
In 2013, the CAG released a performance report on India's disaster preparedness. According to the report, the National plan for disaster management was not yet finalized. The national guidelines were not adopted by the nodal agencies and state governments. In spite of early warning systems established by agencies like India Meteorological Department and Indian Space Research Organization, there was incomplete dissemination of data to stakeholders. Many projects have either been abandoned midway or are being redesigned because of poor planning. 
It is said that response to a disaster is the best test of the level of disaster preparedness. The Uttarakhand floods have taught us our lesson. Disaster preparedness at the community level is the need of the hour. Disaster management cells should be established at the schools, colleges, and workplace so that regular mock drills and awareness campaigns could be carried out. Moreover, Research and Development in the field of disaster should be encouraged for better understanding and mitigation. As a part of the Corporate Social Responsibility, the corporate sector should come forward with newer technologies to build "disaster proof" housing and infrastructure. They can also contribute to research and development. Finally, some key performance indicators should be included to monitor the functioning of the disaster management authority.
| References|| |
Shivananda H, Gautum PK. Reassessing India′s Disaster Management Preparedness and the Role of the Indian Armed Forces. J Def Stud 2012;6:102-113.