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

 



  • When the first positive case of Covid-19 was reported from Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, known for its narrow lanes and compact housing, a sense of panic gripped the nation. And the fear and panic were not unreasonable given the extraordinary characteristics of this slum. According to Census (201...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 1 week 4 days agoread more
  • As the Covid-19 pandemic was leaving deep scars around the globe, it forced governments to take measures to protect citizens and ensure food security for its people. In India, initially, it looked as if the remote rural areas would skirt the pandemic. But soon, cases emerged in tribal areas as well ...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 2 weeks 1 day agoread more
  • While the pandemic Covid-19 has completely taken over the health infrastructure in the country and all eyes were on it, the annual havoc created by Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), popularly known as Chamki Bukhar is already making news in districts of Bihar. There is a real fear that other infect...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 2 weeks 4 days agoread more
  • Coastal flooding is rising in India and recent evidence shows that as high as 36 million Indians will be at the risk of chronic flooding by 2050. The Indian coastline extends over 7,500 kmts across nine states, two Union territories and two island territories — Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadwee...
    aarti kelkar kh...posted 2 weeks 6 days agoread more
  • Bihar’s annual floods are right around the corner and there is a fear that the flood hazard will collide with the Covid-19 pandemic and amplify it in a manner that emergency responses to both will get disrupted. The state’s strategy to mitigate the effects of flooding needs to be updat...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 2 weeks 6 days agoread more
  • Radha Devi, the sarpanch of Bhadsiya, Nagaur tehsil, Rajasthan dissuaded the principal of the government school from forcing girl students to fetch water for mid-day meal preparation during school hours and sent these girls back to their classrooms. Radha is a 5th class drop-out, who now takes an ac...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 3 weeks 5 days agoread more
  • Jharkhand is a state dominated by tribal communities located in eastern part of India. Agriculture, NTFP (Non-timber forest produce) collection and daily wage laborers are the prime source of income for rural Jharkhand. The sudden spread of Covid-19 forced both state and union governments to impose ...
    aarti kelkar kh...posted 1 month 2 days agoread more
  • While Covid-19 has left many countries including India in the line of fire, the situation in India is now getting particularly alarming with the number of people infected by Covid-19 rising at a rapid pace. While cases continue to rise in some of the major Indian cities, the situation in Northeast a...
    aarti kelkar kh...posted 1 month 4 days agoread more
  • The nomenclature of cyclones and hurricanes is developed much in advance through multilateral processes in the region. The name Amphan (Sky in Thai and Akash in Bangla) was chosen from a long list of potential disasters long back. Originated in the warm waters of Bay of Bengal, Amphan hit the coasta...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 1 month 6 days agoread more
  • Suddenly thrown out of work by a nationwide lockdown, the migrants who built our cities and our economies were forced to take the torturous walk away from the cities to their homes in rural India. As per the findings of a recent survey by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New De...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 1 month 2 weeks agoread more
  • Cyclone Amphan causes widespread destruction in West Bengal The strongest cyclone since 1982, Cyclone Amphan has caused severe destruction in southern districts of West Bengal, Kolkata and Sunderbans. Making a landfall with a wind intensity of 165-175 kilometres per hour, gusting up to 185 kmph, th...
    Swati Bansalposted 1 month 2 weeks agoread more
  • Nearly 260 million Indian could be pushed to poverty due to Covid-19: Researchers According to the United Nations and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), the economic fallout owing to coronavirus could push at least 260 million people in the country into poverty. As the virus co...
    Swati Bansalposted 1 month 3 weeks agoread more
  • 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...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 2 months 2 days agoread more
  • IMD revises monsoon calendar for the country Based on its extensive analysis of recent data, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has revised the onset and withdrawal dates for the southwest monsoon over 11 states covering 63 cities. This implies that the monsoon onset and withdrawal dates ove...
    Swati Bansalposted 2 months 1 week agoread more
  • 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. “Why shou...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 2 months 1 week agoread more
  • 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 t...
    aarti kelkar kh...posted 2 months 2 weeks agoread more
  • 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....
    Amita Bhaduriposted 2 months 2 weeks agoread more
  •   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 ...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 2 months 2 weeks agoread more
  • 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. Society for Promo...
    aarti kelkar kh...posted 2 months 3 weeks agoread more
  • 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. Shobha, working a...
    aarti kelkar kh...posted 2 months 3 weeks agoread more

Pages

How Dharavi pulled off a miracle by not letting the disease spiral out of control.

When the first positive case of Covid-19 was reported from Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, known for its narrow lanes and compact housing, a sense of panic gripped the nation. And the fear and panic were not unreasonable given the extraordinary characteristics of this slum.

Attachments

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Strengthening farm and non-farm livelihoods can pave the way for food and nutritional security.

As the Covid-19 pandemic was leaving deep scars around the globe, it forced governments to take measures to protect citizens and ensure food security for its people. In India, initially, it looked as if the remote rural areas would skirt the pandemic. But soon, cases emerged in tribal areas as well as in semi-rural pockets following the return of the migrant workers, leading to social panic.

Covid-19, reverse migration and rural lives

Attachments

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Japanese Encephalitis and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome could spread in the shadow of the pandemic.

While the pandemic Covid-19 has completely taken over the health infrastructure in the country and all eyes were on it, the annual havoc created by Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), popularly known as Chamki Bukhar is already making news in districts of Bihar. There is a real fear that other infectious diseases such as Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and AES may come roaring back in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as the healthcare systems scramble to support outbreak response.

Attachments

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Mangroves not only help India economically by protecting coastal assets during cyclones, but also help by protecting people in densely populated coastal areas.

Coastal flooding is rising in India and recent evidence shows that as high as 36 million Indians will be at the risk of chronic flooding by 2050. The Indian coastline extends over 7,500 kmts across nine states, two Union territories and two island territories — Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep.

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Can Bihar deal with the double whammy of Covid-19 and the annual floods?

Bihar’s annual floods are right around the corner and there is a fear that the flood hazard will collide with the Covid-19 pandemic and amplify it in a manner that emergency responses to both will get disrupted. The state’s strategy to mitigate the effects of flooding needs to be updated in light of the deadly pandemic.

Attachments

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Women leaders of gram panchayats have ideated and executed solutions innovatively and instinctively on dealing with Covid-19 pandemic.

Radha Devi, the sarpanch of Bhadsiya, Nagaur tehsil, Rajasthan dissuaded the principal of the government school from forcing girl students to fetch water for mid-day meal preparation during school hours and sent these girls back to their classrooms. Radha is a 5th class drop-out, who now takes an active role in her panchayat to reduce dropout rates and increase the enrollment of girl students.

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

While tribals in Jharkhand continue to struggle with the impacts of Covid-19, WOTR has been on the frontlines helping them cope with poverty and hunger.

Jharkhand is a state dominated by tribal communities located in eastern part of India. Agriculture, NTFP (Non-timber forest produce) collection and daily wage laborers are the prime source of income for rural Jharkhand. The sudden spread of Covid-19 forced both state and union governments to impose a 2 month lockdown and tribal communities could not work and sell their agricultural produce as well as NTFPs during the lockdown period. The lockdown thus snatched away the rice bowl of the tribals and left them unprepared to deal with the situation.

Attachments

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

While Northeast appears to be better off than the rest of India in the number of Covid cases, how are migrants from the North East coping?

While Covid-19 has left many countries including India in the line of fire, the situation in India is now getting particularly alarming with the number of people infected by Covid-19 rising at a rapid pace. While cases continue to rise in some of the major Indian cities, the situation in Northeast appears to be relatively better as compared to other states although cases appear to be rising

Attachments

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

In the face of frequent cyclones and floods in the region, investment and long term planning is needed on making basic services of drinking water resilient.

The nomenclature of cyclones and hurricanes is developed much in advance through multilateral processes in the region. The name Amphan (Sky in Thai and Akash in Bangla) was chosen from a long list of potential disasters long back. Originated in the warm waters of Bay of Bengal, Amphan hit the coastal eastern border of India and coastal southwest parts of Bangladesh in the third week of May.

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

The forced exodus of the migrants who built our cities indicates how they were shortchanged on every front.

Suddenly thrown out of work by a nationwide lockdown, the migrants who built our cities and our economies were forced to take the torturous walk away from the cities to their homes in rural India. As per the findings of a recent survey by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi a new urban agenda focusing on dynamic urban planning processes and empowering the city governments is looked-for. The study points to the need for plugging the gaps instead of offering a hodgepodge of half-measures.

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Natural Disasters