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India not equipped to offset natural calamities      

Picture source: educationalrecreation.blogspot.in

Posted on 17 Jun 2014

Last updated 28 Jun 2014 00:00:00 +0530

  Natural calamity, India, disaster preparedness

With over a third of India 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.

Apresh Mishra

 

The nature strikes at its will, every now and then, and the Indian cities are mostly found lacking in resources and means to handle her excesses; it’s time we empowered the calamity-prone cities across the country and in all respects.

As the cities continue to stretch and expand, an increasingly large number of citizens are becoming exposed to the natural calamities. Going by the data, 58.6 percent of India’s population is prone to earthquakes and 12 percent to river floods, affecting more than 1 million people every year. Nearly 7,200 km out of 7,516 km of the Indian coastline is vulnerable to cyclones and tsunami, and 3 percent of landmass is threatened by landslides. And, all this before taking into account the snow avalanches and droughts!

Threatened cities

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 risk.

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 one strikes.

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.]

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