How prepared are we to save ourselves from natural disaster?

Disasters management guidelines should be included as a major subject in new education policy. Then only can we save ourselves.


Mudslide in Manipur (File Photo: IFP)

 

The International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction 2021 was celebrated on October 13. The First World Conference on natural disasters in Yokohama, Japan from May 23 to 27, 1994, adopted the Yokohama Strategy for a safer world: guidelines for natural disaster prevention, preparedness and mitigation were confirmed at Kobe, Hyogo, in January 2005. This day also aims to promote a global culture of disaster reduction through awareness, education, prediction and warning system, including disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness to reduce the destructive impact on the communities as the natural disasters are becoming a very frequent issue. Natural disasters can take many forms, ranging from earthquakes and tsunamis, to floods, insects, and volcanic eruptions to mudslides and wildfires. We cannot stop natural disasters but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn't have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness.

Disasters have created enormous challenges for vulnerable population such as poor, children and more precisely for the differently abled persons who have a barrier that confronts them during disaster situations.

The COVID-19 pandemic affecting worldwide in the public health, food systems, extreme poverty and work place with 23,87,68,333 cases and 48,67,000 death is the worst natural disaster in human history. The Australian bushfires, Indonesia flash flood, Swarms of locusts of Asia and Africa, Atlantic hurricane, North American wildfire and Haiti earthquake are some of the world’s recent natural disasters.

India is exposed to multiple disasters which jeopardise the quality of life of the people. About 58.6 per cent of the Indian landmass is prone to earthquakes from moderate to very high intensity; over 40 million hectares i.e. 12 per cent of land is prone to floods and river erosion; of the 7,516 km long coastline, close to 5,700 km is prone to cyclones and tsunamis; 68 per cent of the cultivable area is vulnerable to drought and maximum of the hilly states, including Manipur are again at risk from landslides. The Chamoli disaster on February 7 this year, cyclone Nisarga, Locust attack, cyclone Nivar, cyclone Burevi, Kerala and Assam floods are some of the country’s recent major natural disasters.

National Disaster Management plans to build a safe and disaster resilient India by developing a holistic, proactive, multi-disaster oriented approach for people like the children and youths, women and girls, differently abled persons, the ageing populations etc. to protect them from disasters risks. 

Northeast India is located in Earthquake Zone V- “very severe intensity zone.” The region has experienced at least 18 severe earthquakes measuring up to 7 on Richter scale in the last 100 years. Manipur was struck with an earthquake of 6.7 on January 4, 2016. It was one of the most damaging earthquakes since 1880 and 1939. At least 11 people were killed and around 200 others were injured and numerous structures were also damaged.

The state being in a landlocked, we may not be directly affected by the tropical cyclones arising in Bay of Bengal. However, we are vulnerable to associated hazards of cyclonic winds and heavy rains thereby causing frequent flash flood accompanied by blowing away of trees, houses and electric posts and landslides etc.

Though the state government has promulgated some guidelines and rules for construction of houses and buildings including the schools, it seems that it is still on the tables. Such guidelines and rules should be enforced strictly to save ourselves from the unpredicted natural disasters and be made available in all the social Medias including the WhatsApp groups, Facebook and Twitter etc. for mass knowledge of the common people. In the New Education Policy-2020 also, such disasters management guidelines should compulsorily be included as a major subject and then only we can save ourselves.

Many more sporadic disaster related incidents with many casualties are reported in Manipur for every now and then. Landslides triggered by cloud burst have become a regular feature in most all the hill districts mainly along the National Highways.

Being hilly state, flash floods are among the most common and destructive natural hazards causing extensive damage to the economy of the poor peoples in the state. The frequency and intensity of floods has grown up in the state over the years primarily because of deforestation in the catchments, unplanned development and increase of encroachments in the flood plains. These demands for better preparedness to make sure that appropriate and effective response measures are taken during disaster emergency.

Now, the moot question is how well prepared are we and safe from these disasters that may happened anytime and anywhere in the state? The answer is no, we are still yet to be in preparedness equipped with modern technologies and knowledge from time to time.

We are much lacking behind in the field of immediate reliefs to be provided including search, rescue and medical assistance and quick transport of the casualties to the nearest hospitals. Traffic managements, establishment of temporary shelters for evacuees and ensuring provision of essential services such as medicines, food, clothing, drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, lighting arrangements etc. are yet to be developed.

Presently our safe drinking water is an acute challenge and thus what may be happened during disaster is an unanswered question. During post disaster phase also, many factors such as risk of diseases and epidemics because of water quality, poor sanitation, decaying biological matter, water stagnation, inadequate shelter and food supplies may arise. The relief camps should have the provision for essential healthcare facilities because health and hygiene will be crucial to prevent outbreak of epidemics in post disaster phase. But again, are we prepared for them?

Disasters disrupt progress and destroy the hard-earned fruits, often pushing the development of the nation in back for several decades. Therefore to fight back the disasters which are unpredictable and beyond our control, on coming the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction 2021, we all citizens must always be in preparedness and equipped with befitting modern knowledge to minimize the loss in life, property and to safeguard our long earned national developments.

(The views expressed are personal)

First Published:Oct. 14, 2021, 6:14 p.m.

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