Anjana Majumdar

This chapter talks about the various kinds of disasters that occur in India and how disaster management tries to reduce their impact. Disasters cause great damage to life and property, and they are increasing in both number and strength all over the world. Therefore, proper disaster management is required to provide relief to the affected areas.

Disasters in India

Disaster is a very common phenomenon. The latest World Disaster Report says that disasters have increased both in frequency and intensity. More disasters are occurring in both developed and developing countries. They caused great loss of lives and property.

Even though technology helps humans reduce the impact of the disasters, it is still not enough. The countries which have lower human development are more at risks of disasters and damage. Asia has the highest number of death toll from disasters.

India, due to its geographical location and geological formation, is highly prone to disasters. Its long coastline, high mountain ranges and the rivers in the north, combine to add to this problem. India has a huge population, so there is tremendous pressure on the natural resources, which leads to the occurrence of disasters like floods, droughts, landslides, earthquakes, etc.

The northern region of India faces problems due to landslides, floods, droughts, and earthquakes. The eastern region gets heavy floods in the Brahmaputra and the Ganga. Drought, heatwaves, hailstorms, cyclones, heavy winds and earthquakes are also common in this region. The north-eastern region gets floods, landslides, and earthquakes.

The western region is widely known for severe droughts, wind erosion of land and soil, floods and cyclones. This area is also prone to earthquakes. The southern region, particularly the coastal region, is vulnerable to cyclones, sea erosion, tsunami, and landslides. The islands of Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep have the problems of sea erosion and tsunami. 

The Indian coastal areas have faced some of the severest cyclones. The tsunami is a new phenomenon in India. Due to the lack of an adequate warning system, the tsunami of 2004 devastated a large portion of the coastal regions. It killed many people and destroyed a lot of property.

India has also faced man-made disasters like the Bhopal Gas Tragedy (1984). During this century, India has witnessed some major disasters like the Gujarat earthquake (2001), the Mumbai-Gujarat floods (2005), the tsunami (2004), the Uttarkhand flashfloods and the hurricane Phailin in coastal Orissa and Andhra Pradesh (2013).

Disaster Management

Disasters always cause damage, destruction and death. They damage communication, power supply, water supply, drainage, etc. Healthcare and hospitals are also put under severe stress. Commercial and economic activities are also badly affected and life almost comes to a standstill. The psychological traumas caused by disasters are severe. 

The most affected are the poor sections of society. In some natural disasters, the building structure becomes the cause of destruction and death. Therefore, both private and public buildings should be constructed according to the guidelines prescribed by law. 

The UNDAC, along with the Government of India, has jointly prepared an action-plan for cities and towns vulnerable to earthquakes. In vulnerable areas, the existing buildings should be technically judged and the owners informed about the weaknesses in their construction.  In order to reduce the damage to buildings, a monitoring mechanism should be set up in disaster prone areas which must act in proper coordination with the concerned authorities to ensure the fulfilment of building codes.

In the case of disaster management, the state governments play a major role while the central government only plays a facilitating role. At the state level, there is a State Level Disaster Management Committee. At the national level, there is a Crisis Management Committee. The central government provides necessary support to the states, which includes defence services and availability of rail and ferry services, health personnel and medical support.

Rehabilitation is an integral part of disaster management. The Government cannot rely on normal procedures during disasters. There should be proper coordination among the various departments of the government to bring speedy relief to the victims. The rescue teams require the learning of special skills and attitudes in dealing with disasters. They need to be well-equipped with the latest technologies.

Disaster management has assumed greater importance in recent times. The whole purpose of disaster management is not to prevent disasters, but to reduce their impact.

Conclusion

Disasters are a great bane to the world in general and to human society in particular. They cause destruction and loss at a very large scale. Disaster management strives to reduce this to some extent. It is impossible to prevent disasters, but proper disaster management can surely lessen the damage they cause.