Globally, there has been a paradigm shift in Disaster Management, from ‘response and relief centric’ approach to ‘prevention-preparedness and mitigation’ centric approach’, which calls for holistic, integrated and inclusive strategies with effective use of S&T interventions and innovations from across a range of disciplines ranging from space technology, ecosystem and atmospheric studies, medical, food, geotechnical, construction, industrial, biotech, are to name a few. India is prone to multiple disasters, due to its wide range of environmental, geological and developmental variations. More than 54% of country’s land is prone to significant earthquakes, whereas floods frequently hit more than 40 million ha that doesn’t include urban and flash floods. The 7500 kms long coastlines are prone to cyclonic storms. Besides this, disasters like landslides, cold wave and heat waves, droughts, sand and dust storms, human induced disasters like chemical-industrial, fire, are also common. Environmental changes, viz. climate change, land-use changes, natural resource degradation, along with the anthropogenic settings, aggravate disasters and people’s vulnerability to the disasters impacts. Housing and structures – location, material and designs are central concerns in disaster mitigation.
India has made big strides in both, dealing the emergencies during the occurrence of major disasters, more particularly the floods, earthquakes, cyclones, etc, and also in reducing the risk of disasters by putting in strategic approach. The Disaster Management Act 2005 enabled the holistic and proactive approach to risk management and response in coordinated way, whereas the National Policy on Disaster Management, 2009, provides broader guidance to making of national and state guidelines and plans as required by the Act. Prime Minister is the Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, which is mandated for overall coordination of policy and response actions to deal with disaster management whereas the National Disaster Response Force is the agency with trained manpower to handle disaster rescue and relief, along with the local stakeholders, army and other agencies including NGOs, as per the coordinated system under a well-defined disaster response plan. National Institute of Disaster Management is the apex think tank of Government of India, mandated for research, policy planning and capacity building, including training, education, documentation, publication and dissemination activities in India and outside. Prime Minister’s Agenda 10 on Disaster Risk Management that he gave during the 7thAsian Ministerial Conference on DRR in 2016 called for the greater use of S&T and mobile technologies, besides integration of DRR into all the sectors, while also developing a network of institutions for disaster research.
Dealing with Major Disasters
Dealing with cyclones, particularly cyclone Fani (2019) and cyclone Titli (2018), where the use of advance S&T for effective early warning and dissemination along with local level coordination led to great reduction in loss of life brining to almost negligible. Cyclone tracking and forecast mechanisms capacities of India Meteorological departments have grown effectively over the recent years. IMD’s effective forecasts coupled with flood forecasting have also improved flood forewarning and response including for the flash floods and urban flooding as well in many cases.
Digital innovations along with ecological earth dynamics and civil engineering are being applied to deal with such risk in urban areas facing such risks. Earthquake early warning research goes on but as of now the only strategy is to improve people’s understanding and behavioural preparedness for safety during earthquake, and the promotion of safe construction practices. Building codes/By-laws for resistant housing exists which is improved from time to time, and is part of training to the officials, engineers and stakeholders in infrastructure development and construction. Disaster impact assessment is a component in the environmental clearance and EIA process, to ensure disaster safety and resilience of major developmental projects, is being promoted, whereas the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, has prescribed a checklist in the SFC and EFC clearance of all centrally sponsored projects to ensure DRR is integrated into the planning. Guidelines and plans pertaining to disaster management at all levels and across sectors are expected to utilize and integrate relevant S&T interventions, research strategies and innovations. It is equally important to integrate ethical and social dimensions into S&T application for effective benefits.
Gaps, Needs and Opportunities
However, the recent trends in disaster impacts are showing a decline trends in human deaths but impacts on infrastructure, people’s resources including livelihoods, animals, ecosystems, natural resources, and thereby causing economic damage and non-economic losses have grown significantly. Climate change and anthropogenic addition to risk and vulnerability are new dimensions to disaster challenge. Trends and patterns of disaster occurrence and their impacts have also changed. While ecosystem and landscape degradation emerged as key driver of hazard-risk, social inclusion and developmental deficit emerges as important dimensions of people’s vulnerability to disaster’s impacts. Every new threat reveals the challenges for managing health risks and effects of emergencies and disasters. These are the new challenges not only in India but globally but more warranted in the developing nations. This needs to be addressed as priority. Besides this, as already being pushed, the integration of DRR into plans and actions of the key sectors remains a focus area, at all the levels. Cities as hub of activities and population is growing in terms of risk also and urban risk along with peri-urban, industrial and rural connects also have to be addressed seriously.
India is a key player on the emerging fronts of innovations in DRR, viz. disaster response and cooperation, ecosystem based DRR, community centric preparedness, mainstreaming DRR into development, etc. Recently,a global coalition of disaster resilient infrastructure (CDRI) under the aegis of United Nations DRR has been launched with secretariat in India. India also hosted the 14th COP of UNCCD and land degradation reversion as key strategy to dealing with vulnerability and risk drivers of common disasters have been resolved with common voice. Efforts for integrating DRR into sectors. Regular trainings on DRR into sectors like water, power, forestry, environment, agriculture, health, need to be given more effective pace, whereas the opportunities of synergy and integration between DRR strategies and National and state Action Plans on Climate change (and missions therein) need to be harnessed in planned and effective manner. DM plans have been prepared at the state and district levels, whereas it requires each and every department and the local bodies (ULBs, Panchayats) to come up with their disaster management plans and implement it. S&T applications at local level for effective use towards tapping early warning, projection and prediction capabilities, GIS and environmental modelling applications, communication effectiveness, promotion and integration of innovations and local initiatives, are very much needed to strengthen local level efforts, as key to national level resilience against disasters. DRR also needs to be integrated as integral component of business continuity management and project management, whereas public-private partnership also needs to be the part of overall process. The need is to integrate common science and understanding towards developing a holistic culture of safety and prevention, integrated as the core principle of PM Agenda 10 on DRR.
Session on S&T Application aims at all-inclusive viewpoints and roadmap development through discussion & dialogue on experiences and lessons, gaps and opportunities and opportunities to utilize the range of S&T disciplines and innovations including traditional and local science, and role of institutions for promoting the same. Objectives include the following:
Participants: S&T application/promotion related and related sectoral Ministries/Departments and their research/training institutions, experts, CSIR, ICMR, DST, MoEFCC, UGC, AICTE, DRDO,ICFRE, DBT, ICAR, ICSSR, Vigyan Prasar, NITI Aayog, ISRO, CSO,representative of key stakeholders and users, related international agencies (Around 50-60).
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