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

 


 

Featured Articles
April 13, 2022 Over 30% of Indian districts are prone to extreme forest fires, as per a CEEW study
More than 275 million people in India are exposed to extreme forest fire events. (Image: Naveen N Kadalaveni, Wikimedia Commons)
March 15, 2022 World Resources Institute (WRI) India and the C40 Cities network develop Mumbai’s first-ever Climate Action Plan
The MCAP adopts a scientific evidence-based planning approach to mobilize resources and move from planning to implementation of strategic projects (Image: Deepak Gupta, Wikimedia Commons; CC BY-SA 3.0)
March 2, 2022 Drought contributes more than 70 per cent to India’s riskscape followed by floods, cyclones and earthquakes/tsunamis
An assessment of the cost and priorities of climate adaptation in different regions can strengthen resilience and warning systems. (Image: Max Pixel CC0)
February 10, 2022 47% of India’s population is vulnerable to floods, says IMD's Climate Hazards Atlas
(Image: J Surya, CC-SA-4.0 International)
December 28, 2021 Study identifies ten extreme events, influenced by climate change, that each caused $1.5 billion in damage or more
Floods, cyclones and drought also killed and displaced millions across the globe in places which have done little to cause climate change. (Image: Save the Children)
November 21, 2021 Upstream hydrological modifications altered the basin hydrology, says study
Kathiya Gaon, Tehri, Uttaranchal (Image: India Water Portal)
Char Dham road widening: Activists up in arms against cutting of deodar trees
News this fortnight
Posted on 10 May, 2022 02:20 PM

Activists up in arms against the plan to cut down deodar trees for the widening of Char Dham roads

Rich, diverse forest of Uttarakhand (Image source: IWP Flickr photos)
This is how your kid’s life will be like in 2050
It is almost certain that today’s kids are doomed to live in a world that would be two-degree centigrade warmer compared to the average global temperature of the 1850s. But what would that world be like? Posted on 22 Apr, 2022 03:04 PM

Scientists might be forced to listen to self-serving politicians but climate change shall not.

Children's lives are under threat due to climate change. (Image: Max Pixel)
34 percent of India's coastline suffers from erosion, West Bengal worst affected
News this fortnight Posted on 18 Apr, 2022 10:00 AM

West Bengal's coastline suffers the worst erosion while Goa's remains stable

Coast along the southern tip of the country (Image source: IWP Flickr photos)
Forest fire incidences have increased ten times over the past two decades
Over 30% of Indian districts are prone to extreme forest fires, as per a CEEW study Posted on 13 Apr, 2022 10:47 PM

Among the countries of the global south, India is one of the most vulnerable nations and is exposed to an increasing trend of forest fires.

More than 275 million people in India are exposed to extreme forest fire events. (Image: Naveen N Kadalaveni, Wikimedia Commons)
Options for flood risk reduction
How participatory is participatory flood risk mapping? Voices from the flood-prone Dharavi slum in Mumbai Posted on 02 Apr, 2022 10:54 AM

Participatory flood risk mapping is a well-recognized and widely implemented tool for meaningful community involvement in disaster risk reduction.

Need to enhance community participation through participatory flood risk mapping (Image: Ronie, Pixahive)
Eastern India highly vulnerable to climate change, says study
Study analyses the historical climate and projects, the temperature and rainfall of the four eastern states Posted on 23 Mar, 2022 10:46 AM

Climate data gathering at the district level is essential for risk planning, developing coping strategies, and adaptation, especially considering that the impacts of climate variability, climate change, and extreme events are visible globally and in India.

Climate projections for the eastern states at the district level for the period 2021–2050 (the 2030s) indicate a warmer and wetter future (Image: Save the Children)
The tale of two disasters: Role of science communication for disaster risk reduction
Comparing two incidents of flash floods in the Garhwal region Posted on 15 Mar, 2022 10:43 AM

Over the years, the Himalayan climate has grown warmer, there are higher incidences of short but intense monsoon and hailstorms.

Aftermath caused by cloud burst and flood in Kedarnath, Uttarakhand (Image: Rahul Dixit, EGU)
Mumbai sets a mitigation goal to achieve net-zero by 2050
World Resources Institute (WRI) India and the C40 Cities network develop Mumbai’s first-ever Climate Action Plan Posted on 15 Mar, 2022 09:31 AM

A recent study by Council on Energy Environment and Water indicates Maharashtra is the 3rd most vulnerable state in India and Mumbai is one of five distric

The MCAP adopts a scientific evidence-based planning approach to mobilize resources and move from planning to implementation of strategic projects (Image: Deepak Gupta, Wikimedia Commons; CC BY-SA 3.0)
Economics of India’s adaptation and resilience pathways
Drought contributes more than 70 per cent to India’s riskscape followed by floods, cyclones and earthquakes/tsunamis Posted on 02 Mar, 2022 08:47 PM

In the year 2021 India witnessed multiple intense cascading risk scenarios.

An assessment of the cost and priorities of climate adaptation in different regions can strengthen resilience and warning systems. (Image: Max Pixel CC0)
IPCC releases second part of sixth assessment report, calls for Climate Resilient Development
News this fortnight Posted on 02 Mar, 2022 02:55 PM

Climate change will harm India's economy: IPCC

Multiple climate hazards projected for India in IPCC's recent report (Image source: IWP Flickr photos) Image for representation only.
×