Natural Disasters

The term 'Disaster' occurs with such tragic frequency in news reports today, that it seems superfluous to define it. 'Official' definitions are suggested by the United nations and  the Disaster Management Act. Simply put, a disaster is a  rapidly occuring event that leads to loss of lives and property.  Loss is the defining characteristic of a disaster. With the exception of industrial and other manmnade accidents, the cataclysmic events that lead to this loss are necessary landforming mechanisms.

Earthquakes, floods and resultant landslides, cyclones, and other such events are the processes through which the  earth relieves pressure that might be building up in the crust, reforms river beds, and relieves buildup of atmospheric pressure. When humans are caught in the midst of these events and suffer damage and loss, the events are termed disasters. 

It is not to be denied that these events can be catastrophic in their impact.  The Bhola cyclone, in 1970, caused the deaths of 5 lakh people in India. Three decades later, the Orissa cyclone in 1999 killed 10,000 people.
1. Types of disastersNatural Disasters Infographic (Source: Alexandra Curtis)
Disasters, events that lead to a considerable loss of  life and property, can occur in several ways. The broadest means of  classfication are as manmade and natural disasters. Manmade disasters include industrial and chemical disasters, stampedes, nuclear emergencies, transportation accidents (road, rail, air  and sea), and mines. These, while important, are not withing the purview of the India Water Portal. The discussion therefore will be confined to natural disasters. Natural disasters of course can be exacerbated by human interference such as in the case of landslides which are intensified by  blasting in mountain areas, and floods which are intensified by inappropriate channelization of  river courses.

2. Dealing with disasters:
Traditional means of managing disasters has been confined to response. This is the  rescue and aid that is given immediately after an event. In some cases, rehabilitation has been done, which is ensuring that the aid that disaster  victims need to begin their lives over again is available. In recent years though, the purview of  disaster management has expanded across the continuum of disasters to include mitigation and reconstruction. These now include:

  • Prevention and mitigation
  • Preparedness and response
  • Recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation

3. Institutional framework in India
Disaster management in India was earlier predominantly focused towards responding to requests for aid after a disaster. However, the nineties saw  series of catastrophic events which led to the creation of a holistic policy of disaster management. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was established with the vision of a disaster- resilient India; created by enabling prevention, mitigation, preparedness, and effective response (National Disaster Management Authority, 2009).   They recommend the inclusion of disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness activities within the scheme of disaster management. The  NDMA also recommends several measures at various levels from the national to the individual. A crucial part of these is the formation of State Disaster Management Authorities which oversee the implementation of  the NDMA policies in their states. An important part of the institutional framework to deal with disasters is the emergence of community-led institutions. These range from pan-regional networks such as HYCOS in  the Hindu Kush Himalayas to the village-based flood alert systems seen in Assam. These are explained in David Molden's talk below:

 

4. Voluntary organisations
Despite the existence of the National Disaster Response Force, the first responders on the scene are often local communities and voluntary organisations. The outpouring of support that one sees in the immediate aftermath of a disaster is a matter of pride for the nation, as citizens rally together to support the stricken communities. Local communities do stellar work in immediate rescue of afflicted people. This is especially crucial during landslides in the mountains when afflicted areas can be rendered inaccessible. Communities  that are farther away from the scene of the disaster also rally around when it comes to the  donation of supplies such as food, clothing and shelter. However this  community-driven and impulsive response is largely confined to the rescue and response stages. The delivery of relief material can also be inefficiently handled due to the inexperience of the people dealing with the situation.

It is here that voluntary organisations come to the forefront. They usually have a network of contacts and are able to mobilise both goods and personnel in an efficient manner. Past disasters such as the Latur Earthquake, Leh Landslides, and Uttarakhand floods have seen all manner of voluntary organisations from NGOs to religious trusts offer support, time, and goods. Voluntary organisations also offer more than just the supply of immediately required food and clothing by assisting with construction of shelters, medical aid, and provision of sanitary facilities.

This is best offered by non-political volunteer networks and organisations that are largely devoted to the provision of disaster relief. These have access to highly skilled personnel, donor agencies, and government networks which enable them to provide superlative assistance as and when needed.

RedR is such a network composed  of engineers. Volunteers with RedR participate in regular training which enable them to offer skilled assistance in times of disaster. Medicins Sans Frontiers is a network of doctors who provide skilled medical care in times of disaster and strife.

2.  Personal responsibility
A large part of the casualties during disasters can be prevented by taking a few steps. After all, the first person present at the scene of an accident is the accident victim. While some events may have some warning, it is always better to be prepared for the unforseeable.

Please see below for some tips 'Do's & Dont's to protect yourself and your family in case of an emergency: 

Earthquake         Tsunami        Landslide         Biological            Floods           Cyclone          Nuclear            Heat Wave       Chemical Disaster

 



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Nearly 260 million Indian could be pushed to poverty due to Covid-19: Researchers

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It’s time that public policy focuses on a radical re-envisioning of urban spaces and on improving social inclusion of migrants in urban settings.

When migrants headed home after Covid-19 lockdown 1.0, Sarojini was suddenly caught off-guard. She decided against moving, after an initial urge to leave for her village in Samastipur, Bihar. Her two sons stay with her at Delhi, doing daily wage labour work, while she works as a domestic help. After eating frugally for the first few days, and unable to access dry rations provided by the state, they came across cooked meals at a feeding centre, but the queue was endless.

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News this week

IMD revises monsoon calendar for the country

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Utthan promotes self-sufficient food production areas with internal dependencies, as the pandemic causes disruptions from food to fork.

Reshamben, Manguben and Naseemben, strong women leaders of Vanita Shakti Mahila Sangathan and Ekta Mahila Sangathan, have always argued that government ration shops under the public distribution system should purchase all essential foodgrains from the local area, to the extent possible.

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Samerth Charitable Trust is responding to the needs of vulnerable communities from remote locations of Gujarat and Chhattisgarh in these difficult times with empathy and compassion

While the COVID-19 pandemic is putting humanity through its most testing times, there are stories of hope, resilience, and unwavering human spirit. We have seen volunteers from the general public, NGOs and other community-based organisations, governments, philanthropies and private entities coming together in unprecedented ways. Samerth Charitable Trust is one such organisation that has been on the forefront, supporting the most affected families across Gujarat and Chhattisgarh through their relief work.

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A rapid study highlights the plight of homebound migrant workers of Mirzapur and Prayagraj districts of Uttar Pradesh after Lockdown 1.0

Raj Kumar, 32, a daily wager employed at a factory in Delhi had barely a thousand rupees in his wallet when he readied to rush back to his village in Halia block of Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh. On a normal April afternoon, he took the highway that leads to his district hearing about the 21-day lockdown. It took him over a week, as he walked down all the way to his village fearing starvation amid the Covid-19 crisis. Kumar trudged hundreds of kilometres along deserted highways by foot along with a few of his acquaintances.

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The "heal as one" narrative is a false one as the poorest are the most vulnerable to the disease.

 

With Covid-19 spreading its wings across the world, the impact on quality of life and access to basic human rights will be felt exceedingly more in the global south. It is the nature of disasters, to bare the inherent socio-economic inequities in societies, that are invisibilized during normal times. The Covid-19 pandemic, an unprecedented public health disaster, is a case in point.

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Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM), Pune has designed a Covid-19 response programme for vulnerable communities.

The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc worldwide and India continues to be in the line of fire. While cases continue to rise, India is also experiencing a crisis of another kind, that of the lockdown affecting the livelihoods of a large number of workers from the informal sector.

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While the Covid-19 pandemic has affected both men and women from the informal sector differently, gender analysis is missing from India’s Covid-19 response strategy

The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc worldwide and India continues to be in the line of fire. While cases continue to rise, India also is experiencing a crisis of another kind, that of the lockdown affecting the livelihoods of a large number of workers from the informal sector.

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Regions

About the course:

The COVID-19 Academy is a joint initiative of NDMA, UNICEF, WHO and Sphere India. It is an online platform that aims to build capacities of volunteers and outreach workers across India on a range of orientation and technical sessions related to COVID-19 response.

This session covers the basics of COVID-19 such as what is COVID-19, why is COVID-19 in focus these days, its causative agent and factors, signs and symptoms, incubation period, methods of prevention, etc. 

For whom:

April 10, 2020 2:00PM - April 10, 2020 3:30PM

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