A disaster resilient world demands disaster resilient infrastructure: India

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Published: April 3, 2019 1:08:00 PM

Cyclone Idai has killed more than 700 people and destroyed over 100,000 homes and half a million hectares of crops. It has also rendered thousands of schools and dozens of health facilities unusable.

India's remarks came as Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi struggle to recover after the devastating Cyclone Idai. (AP Photo/ File)India?s remarks came as Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi struggle to recover after the devastating Cyclone Idai. (AP Photo/ File)

India has stressed on the need for nations to look beyond immediate relief and rehabilitation and focus on “build back better” after a natural catastrophe, emphasising that a “disaster resilient world” demands “disaster resilient infrastructure.” India’s remarks came as Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi struggle to recover after the devastating Cyclone Idai. Cyclone Idai has killed more than 700 people and destroyed over 100,000 homes and half a million hectares of crops. It has also rendered thousands of schools and dozens of health facilities unusable.

“It is urgent and critical to anticipate, plan for and reduce disaster risk in order to more effectively protect persons, communities and countries, their livelihoods, health, cultural heritage, socioeconomic assets and ecosystems, and thus strengthen their resilience,” India’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Nagaraj Naidu said Tuesday. Participating at an Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) meeting on the response to Cyclone Idai, Naidu said “going forward, we need to look beyond immediate relief and rehabilitation. We need to try and see can the challenges of this disaster be transformed into an opportunity for action.” He emphasized that there has been thinking that it’s important to focus on affordable Climate Resilient Infrastructure.

“While we should seek to make ‘build to last’ becoming the norm, we should try and ‘build back better’ after this disaster.” Citing the recent devastating floods in Kerala, Naidu said the effort in the aftermath has been not simply to rehabilitate the areas devastated by floods but to build back better. ? “The way we build our infrastructure today will either build risk or resilience for future generations. The path of resilience is open to us – if we so choose?,” he said. Naidu also cited former freedom fighter and first Education Minister of Mozambique Graca Machel’s comments that 90% of the infrastructure of Port Beira in the southern African nation has been hit by Idai and the consequent flooding.

Beira will go down in history as having been the first city to be completely devastated by climate change. “It raises the issue of how can we disaster proof a world that lives under serious existential threat. A disaster resilient world demands disaster resilient infrastructure,” Naidu said. He pointed out that the Resilience and Adaptation track of the UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit in September 2019 can try and see if they can set up a coalition of the willing to work on a concrete example of helping any or all of these States in building back better. Naidu highlighted the widespread humanitarian assistance India provided to the three nations in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai.

In response to a request from Mozambique, the Indian Government late last month launched ‘Operation Sahayata’ or ‘Operation Assistance’, which diverted three Indian Naval ships namely, INS Sujata, INS Shardul and INS Sarathi to provide immediate humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the affected people ?in coordination with local authorities and the High Commission of India, Maputo. The Indian Naval Crew rescued more than 204 people and medical assistance has been provided to 1381 people in medical camps set up by the Indian Navy. Indian Naval helicopter Chetak in coordination with disaster management officials of Mozambique took several sorties to facilitate aerial survey for evacuation of people and for air dropping food and water packets in cyclone affected areas.

Indian Naval ships also provided fresh water in relief camps, undertook community service including clearing of debris and repairing damaged roads. Naidu told the meeting that in view of the evolving crisis in Mozambique and to sustain Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations, a fourth Indian Naval Ship Magar loaded with relief materials has been sent to Mozambique. In addition, 500 kg of epidemic related medicines from Apollo Group of Hospital and 250 tons of rice has also been loaded on the ship, which is expected to reach Beira next week.

“The Indian Navy was the first responder in evolving humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of cyclone IDAI that hit Mozambique. The indomitable spirit, humane approach and professionalism of the Indian crew have received wide acknowledgement from the Government of Mozambique and the people of Mozambique as well as the international agencies including the UN staff involved in HADR operations in Mozambique,” he said. Malawi has declared a state of national disaster in 13 districts and has appealed for assistance in terms of emergency relief material including food supplies and medicines.

India is in the process of expediting the supply of 1000 MTs of rice and medicines worth $2 Million to Malawi, Naidu said. In response to request from Zimbabwe for medicines, the Indian Government is sending the first tranche of medicines, which is expected to reach its destination by mid April.

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