Rapid urbanization has been the hallmark of demographic growth in the twentieth century. In 2008, the urban population equaled the rural and is expected to grow rapidly in future, led primarily by Africa and Asia. The inevitable trend of urbanization has concentrated economic activity and pushed economic growth and also promoted inequality and social disruption along with environmental damage. The urban landscape is highly vulnerable to disasters of various nature and intensities. Rapidly expanding cities are continuously creating new risks and challenges for disaster risk reduction.
In disaster terms, India is vulnerable to multiple hazards, with more than 85% of its area vulnerable to one or more of them. According to the United Nations, the country suffered a loss of US$ 79.5 bn in the last two decades from climate related disasters. Increasing urbanization, changing climate patterns are expected to result in extreme events and high impact disasters. Disasters have an intrinsic relationship with development. Disasters have serious effects on both contemporary and long-term development of a country. Households suffer from loss of lives ,assets and livelihoods, loss of trade and business impacts the local economy and damage to infrastructure facilities and amenities affect national development. Disaster losses exacerbate poverty, affecting the poorest and the most vulnerable the maximum.
While on one hand, disasters cause loss of development benefits, flawed development choices often result in disasters, on the other. UNDP (2004) underscores this relationship by terming disasters as “a cause and product of failed development.” Inappropriate development interventions like building on unstable slopes or flood plains incrementally increases disaster risks and create unresolved development issues. Lack of proper implementation of zoning regulations and building bye-laws lead to settlements in unsafe areas, which accumulate risk over the years and becomes vulnerable to hazards. Road constructions and poorly managed forestry programmes increases landslide risk in hilly areas.
Urbanization and Urban Risks in India
The urban population in India has grown tremendously in the 19th century and is expected to show exponential growth in the near future. According to the Census 2011, the urban population has increased by 91 million in the last decade and presently contributes to nearly one-third of the total population of the nation. India is projected to add another 416 million urban dwellers between 2018 and 2050. Seven Indian cities are expected to reach the population of 10 million making them mega-cities by the year 2030.
Urban risks in India are characterized by the location and socio-economic factors. About 60 cities with population exceeding half a million are located within zones III, IV and V. With return periods of earthquakes ranging from 5 years to 50 years, severe earthquakes striking highly populated cities is expected. Extreme events like heat island impact, heat and cold waves, intense rainfall affect Indian cities on a regular basis. Unplanned urbanization also leads to various human-induced disasters like chemical, nuclear, radiological disasters and urban fires. The incident of Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 1983 is one of the biggest industrial disasters in our country. The highest number of deaths in the country is due to fire hazards. Around 38,837 fire incidents have been recorded in India during 2014-15.
Risks from natural hazards that arise due to the location of an urban area in a particular physiographical setting are aggravated due to problems in built form, spatial planning, networks and systems, resulting in complex emergencies and disasters. The urban infrastructure and land in India are extremely stressed owing to the breakneck speed of urbanization. The urban local bodies in India are unable to cope up with this tremendous stress leading to deterioration of living conditions, formation of urban slums and environmental degradation among others. The unavailability of proper infrastructure and over-densification of the population in the urban centres also pushes the developmental activities to encroach open and natural spaces in the city exposing them to the vulnerabilities of the natural disasters.
Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Development and Planning
There is a national and global emerging consensus that the key to achieve sustained reduction in disaster loses lies in factoring risk considerations into development activities. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) 2015 – 2030 and Sustainable Development Goal 11 aims to bring about resilient development and holistic disaster risk management at all levels in urban areas. The New Urban Agenda put down standards for the planning, construction, development as well as management and improvement of urban areas. The Disaster Management Act 2005 mandates mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction into urban planning, development and disaster risk planning.
The thematic session on “Mainstreaming and Planning (Urban Planning, Development Planning and DM Plans)” would aim towards discuss the issues and action framework so that cities are planned to incorporate components of resilience in building and maintenance of urban habitat. The session would also focus on disaster management plan preparation in urban contexts.
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