Occurrence of a natural or man-made disaster is always catastrophic to human progress and economic development. In fact, disaster damages the infrastructure, retards economic progress and destroys the developmental efforts. The management of disasters, rather than mere response to their occurrence has received increased attention all over the world in recent decades. The 2011 Tohoku earthquake of Japan followed by a devastating tsunami has put the whole global thinking of disaster management on the path of rethinking. Moreover, the nuclear radiation from the nuclear plants in Fukushima (Japan) has raised questions against the very idea of setting up such plants around the world. The Government of India has also ordered a complete assessment of its preparedness regarding nuclear disaster management.
Disaster Management in India
India is one of the most disaster prone countries of the world. Its unique geo-physical setting make different areas vulnerable to various disasters. About 59 per cent of the land area lies in seismic zone III, IV and V. About 68 per cent of the arable land is prone to drought, 12 per cent to floods and 8 per cent to cyclones. In addition to these, India is vulnerable to disasters of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear origin. The socio-economic backwardness of the majority of our population, coupled with the lack of skills in preparing and responding to disasters increase their vulnerability, negatively affecting their ability to respond and recover from periodic and intense disasters.
India has been severely battered by several disasters in the last three decades and these disasters have caused a huge loss to life, property and livelihood of the people. Making community aware is the first step to reduce the impact of these disasters. Prevention is better than cure, is an old saying which is very apt in the context of disaster management. Every year, colossal amount of resources are used by our government as well as by the disaster management agencies to carry out relief and rehabilitation measures. It has become now increasingly evident that an investment in disaster preparedness can save thousands of lives, vital economic assets, livelihoods and reduce the cost of overall relief assistance. Further, disaster mitigation is a step forward in attempting to conserve development gains before a disaster strikes.
National Policy on Disaster Management
On December 23, 2005, the Government of India enacted the Disaster Management Act. This Act envisaged the creation of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), headed by the Prime Minister, State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) headed by the Chief Ministers, and the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMAs) headed by the Collector of the District or the Deputy Commissioner as the case may be.
The Disaster Management Act, 2005 lays down institutional, legal, financial and co-ordination mechanism at the national, state, district and local levels. The institutions are not parallel structures but work in close coordination. The main objectives of the National Policy on Disaster Management are as under:
- To promote a culture of prevention, preparedness and resilience at all levels through knowledge, innovation and education.
- To encourage mitigation measures based on technology, traditional wisdom and environmental sustainability.
- To maintain disaster management into the developmental planning process.
- To establish institutional and techno-legal frameworks to create an enabling regulatory environment and compliance regime.
- To ensure efficient mechanism for identification, assessment and monitoring of disaster risks.
- Developing contemporary forecasting and early warning system backed by responsive and failsafe communication with information technology support.
- To promote a productive partnership with the media to create awareness and contributing towards capacity development.
- To ensure efficient response and relief with a caring approach towards the needs of the vulnerable section of the society.
- To undertake reconstruction as an opportunity to build disaster resilient structures and habitat for ensuring safer living.
- To promote productive and proactive partnership with media in disaster management.
Disaster Management Act, 2005 is a significant attempt to mitigate the disasters. The ultimate goal of the Act is to develop a disaster intelligent and resilient community, duly empowered by a sound Disaster Management structure in which the government, NGOs and public will effectively function in harmony with each other.
Written by princy