With more than a third of the country falling
under the seismic zones IV and V, an earthquake could strike in not too distant
future. Some of major cities like Guwahati, Srinagar, New Delhi, Chandigarh,
Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai are located in high seismic zones.
A recent study by Swiss RE declares Kolkata as the
world’s 7th riskiest city when it comes to being under threat from all types of
natural disasters. When the analysis looked at urban storms only as a form of
natural disaster, Mumbai and Chennai were found to be 8th and 9th most
threatened cities, respectively, with 8.3 million people together exposed to
That puts a question: are we prepared enough to
handle natural disasters? And, the obvious reply seems: “Not really!”
The last big natural disaster to have hit the
quake- and flood-prone high Himalayas in Uttarakhand caught the state government
completely unawares, as it did not pay heed to the Met department’s warning and
lacked administrative capability to evacuate people from the disaster zone.
Due to huge diversity in the climatic and
geological conditions in the country, it is virtually impossible to create a
unified disaster management and post-disaster rehabilitation plan. So, be it an
earthquake in Gujarat (2001), a flooded river in Uttarakhand (2013) or a cyclone
in Odisha (1999 and 2013) or Andhra Pradesh (2013), the respective state
governments need to foresee, plan and then act with full force.
Lack of resources
Unfortunately, most Indian states do not have
sufficient financial resources to save citizens and rehabilitate them. It is,
therefore, crucial to allocate them resources; but such issues are deliberated
momentarily in the wake of such extreme events and then forgotten until the next
Allocation of resources for an early warning
system across the country and training and recruiting scientific manpower for
this task is the call of the day to ensure that natural calamities don’t turn
into human tragedies.
[Author is the Managing Editor
of Urban Update Magazine.]