Uttarakhand Disaster: Expect unexpected and prepare yourself for that!

February 19, 2021 3:13 PM

When the whole country was enjoying Sunday off on 7 Feb from work District Chamoli of Uttarakhand seen an unexpected flash flood. After a week today, a rescuer found 12 more bodies from the site of flash flood bringing the death toll to 50 with more than 150 people still missing.

Uttarakhand flash floodDevelopment is mandatory but certainly not on the cost of life and property. (Photo source: IE)

By Nakul Tarun, 

When the whole country was enjoying Sunday off on 7 Feb from work District Chamoli of Uttarakhand seen an unexpected flash flood. After a week today, a rescuer found 12 more bodies from the site of flash flood bringing the death toll to 50 with more than 150 people still missing. Missing is a more polite word for casualty after a week time of disaster.

Development is mandatory but certainly not on the cost of life and property. Hence, sustainable development is advocated in disaster management. Landslides, avalanches and flash floods are not unusual in Uttrakhand. ISRO data shows that almost all the 1,000-odd glaciers in the state are on the retreat and surprisingly most of the developmental organization aware of it. All policymakers of government including state govt is aware of the hazard. However, we never calculated risk in totality.

If you go through the different disaster management practices in India, you will find that we are still response centric country. Paradigms shift after DM Act 2005 is only for seminar and webinars. That is why we have a National Disaster Response force, State Disaster Response Force not any mitigation force.

Government of India have initiated the Disaster Risk Management process in the year 2003 before the enactment of the Disaster Management Act 2005. With the Disaster Management Act, 2005 it was emphasized to prepare a Disaster Management Plan (DMP) at all level that may be referred at the time of emergency for necessary coordination.

It is observed that most of the SDMAs and DDMAs has developed its plan, but they are bulky 300-400 pages document and hardly referred during any disaster. No DMP has been used (tested) in covid 19 response and still, we are not testing it in recovery. These plans are not updated regularly and made operational. Quote by Benjamin Franklin: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

These DM plans are made to support authorities for effective coordination with all the stakeholders during disasters. Translate plans on the ground and practice (Mock drill) these plan before the disaster. Without robust DM plan because of local hazard, we cannot activate the Incident Response System.

Thus, in view of frequent tremors and prevalent risk some of the immediate actions proposed are as follow:

1. Development of operational Disaster Management Plan at District level and below for all the units like Schools, college, University, Cinema hall, hospitals, hotels, office complexes, societies, villages through a qualified Disaster Manager (DM). DM should sign the document and own its responsibility.

2. Translation of these plan at the ground through orientation, training and mock drills. Emphasis on mitigation measures. Updating of DM plans every year/ every disaster.

3. Identify train and keep active at least 1% populations as volunteers.

4. A copy of DM plan below-district-level must be submitted at DDMA

5. DDMA should share all DM plans among all Emergency Support Functionaries (ESFs)

6. Identify Old and weak building through destruction method incentives must be added to the reconstruction of the earthquake-resistant building. New construction must follow building bylaws.

7. Develop a Disaster Manager not only responder.

(The author is Disaster Management Expert. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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