Expert of the Week   for  20 - 26 Oct 2014

Expert photo

You too can be featured here. Share your expertise in DRR with the community.

Sign up now!

Experts Log in


Swati Mitra

Founding consultant

Center for Disaster Risk Resilience Expertise:  • Needs Assessment • Capacity building & Community based disaster Management • Making of DM Plans & Documentation

After obtaining a Ph.D. from the School of Social Sciences, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Delhi, 2001, I have been in the development sector in different capacities & programs for the past 12 years. Worked in different capacities in UN Agencies, INGOs and private sector as well. Developed a “Multi-Sectoral model” for DRR that was selected and presented at international forums and successfully tested by a multinational company and while implementing capacity building programs with government as well. Currently a group of committed professionals have formed a consultancy under the name of Centre for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience ( with a single aim of “bringing confidence &definite change amongst people in handling emergency situations.” We at CFDRR impart: - Life Skills Training - Setting up of Disaster Management Systems that includes making of innovative plans, standard operating procedures, contingency and, - Institutionalizing disaster management - Setting up of task forces

Hands-on implementation, the making of implementable plans, and capacity building in disaster risk reduction.

Read more on the context

QQuestion by Mr Satish Girap

We have seen many national and international aid receiving only after any disaster which is unable to save the lives of victims. Is there any chance to change this strategy by concentrating on preparedness or on implementation by virtue of which we can able to save many lives. In such cases will national or international NGOs, Govt. Organisation provide their help? Like shri vaihno devi temple.

Mr Satish Girap Training organisor | cfdrr

APosted on 26 Oct 2014

Dear Mr. Girap,
This question actually calls for a debate as to whether in India we require international aid? Actually, A RESOUNDING NO! We do not require international aid what we do need is political committment in ensuring that  our community is prepared for any eventuality. I would give you a comparitive analysis of what actually happened in India :In 1999 Super Cyclone hit Orissa and the loss of life & property was a staggering figure of 10,000 lives and causing property damages worth US $1.35 billion !Now if we compare this figure with Cyclone Phylin(2013) or more recently Huddud(2014) the loss of life was 11 in Phylin and 02 in Huddud. What could be the reason? The government of Orissa had not only set up the State Disaster Management Authority but focused on preparedness with NO International aid! 
You have mentioned Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board which is India's most revered shrines and is located at 6,200 feet above sea level and has an average footfall of at-least 15-20,000 per day and on special days more then 30 to 40,000 pilgrims trek the 14.2 km track. The entire Himalayan range is prone to cloud burst,earthquake, landslide etc. However, the recent Jammu & Kashmir floods which had huge impact on the state  , the entire shrine area had No casualties.This is due to good preparedness measures,committed administration.
Therefore with all the above examples, in India what we need is political commitment  towards preparedness and  Life Skill training's must be dynamic that would ensure an attitudinal change amongst people! Hope this helps,thanks for your  question!

QQuestion by Mr Venkataram Arabolu

What is the benefit for corporates to get engaed in DRR projects or work? There should be some good reasons that convince them of the relevence to their business and social responsibility.

Mr Venkataram Arabolu Managing Director | BSI India

APosted on 26 Oct 2014

Dear Sir,
Your question is actually been on the top priority of UNISDR which has been focussing on getting the corporates to effectively contribute in DRR. 
UNISDR created a Disaster Risk Reduction Private Sector Partnership (DRR-PSP) Working Group. 

 Corporates being organised and focussed have their  CSR programmes and many other sustainability activities, and currently DRR and Climate Change have been integrated globally, therefore making it easier to integrate their activities for example: any manufacturing organisation  having set-up their factory in the rural hinterland can ensure that they reduce their carbon foot-prints which in turn would lead to a clean environment,reduce green house emissions  and indirectly contribute to DRR  for example: we would not get extreme temperatures . On the other hand, most corproates via their CSR activities focus upon relief activities post disaster,however, this could be better done working in partnership with the government for example: if the there is shortage of material from the local government .it is here the corporates could make a meaningful contribution and not simply fulfill a mandate by sending food,clothes,medicines which may be in abundant supply and would go waste.
The UN Agencies play the role of a good catalyst as they provide a platform that connects the governments,corporates & the community. You could log in to and there is a dedicated section on Private Sector . 
I think this quote by the  Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction best sums up my answer & reflects what and how the corporates could contribute in DRR:
"The private sector is the perfect advocate for resilient thinking because of its direct relationship with customers, suppliers and everyone in between."Hope this is helpful.thanks

QQuestion by Mr Ravindra Mulik

Is there any kind earthquake early warning equipment present or any research is going on.

Mr Ravindra Mulik Search and Rescue trainer | MAVSPS

APosted on 25 Oct 2014

Dear Mr. Mulik,
I am not sure of an early warning equipment for earthquake. There were research in Japan but really not sure if we have something in India to detect early warning in earthquake. There were some findings that prior to an earthquake animal behavior who are closest to nature become restive, or underground animals come out of their holes but really not sure if we have a "sure " early warning equipment for earthquake as of now.

QQuestion by Dr Vinay Sehgal

With your experience in the area of "Capacity Building, what do you consider are the strengths and lacunae in the institutional mechanism setup in India for capacity building in DRR"?

Dr Vinay Sehgal Sr. Scientist | Indian Agricultural Research Institute

APosted on 25 Oct 2014

Dear Sir,
Thanks for the question, well to begin with India has passed the DMAct,2005,set-up a NAtional Platform NDMA(National Disaster Management Authority) and we have National Institute of Disaster Management that percolates down to the states(provinces )with respective Administrative Training Institutes. These are statutory bodies who have been doing their jobs of providing training ,passing laws etc. 
The lacunae are is it enough to rely  upon the above bodies to bring attitudinal change among the government staff and community? In India, Basic Life Skills are generally not known to an average citizen for example: how to use a fire extinguisher?how to administer Cardio Pulmonary resuscitation?
I feel focusing on simple"life skills" are more important then end of the day be it UN Agencies or the Disaster Management Laws all have a single aim which is to ensure a culture of safety, which I feel the statutory institutes need to focus upon not simply by completing there mandate but ensuring that people have actually learnt life saving skills.Thanking you..hope this is helpful.

QQuestion by Mr Ranit Chatterjee

what are ground level challenges for implementing the DRR framework in India. How can one overcome those challenges.

Mr Ranit Chatterjee student | kyoto university

APosted on 22 Oct 2014

Dear Ranit,
Your question is really good and I sincerely hope with the new government coming in hope they take the corrective steps.To begin with ,it is good that India has set up a National Platform -National Disaster Management Authority,created a National Disaster Response Force, passed the Disaster Management Act,2005.
 Our challenges are too many :
- lack of political will that has treated the subject of Disaster Risk Reduction as an additional subject that simply needs to fulfilled as in making the Disaster Management Plan by the Relief department. Imagine this despite India being in one of the geographical hot-spots and we are vulnerable to all types of natural hazards.
- Funds allocated for example Capacity building exercise have too many clauses that deter bureaucrats to release the fund
-  Attitudinal change is needed from both the government & the community as that would make the program sustainable.For example an average citizen in Japan would know what is a Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation which has got nothing to do with their educational level,but in India Basic Life skill techniques are not known to people across levels.

To overcome this I really feel the National Platform needs to get in younger people and be more action oriented and in the next 5 years we may achieve at-least in training all the people in Basic Life Skill techniques. UN Agencies need to play pro-active role right from the national upto the District level in partnership with the government.
I hope we really overcome our "attitudinal" hurdles and that would positively enable us to implement DRR activities in the ground!

QQuestion by Ms Erma Manoncourt

What is the biggest challenge in developing implementable plans for disaster risk reduction and who needs to be involved in the process? In other words, what role do communities themselves play in developing such plans?

Ms Erma Manoncourt Consultant | Free-lance

APosted on 22 Oct 2014

Dear Ms. Manoncourt,
 The biggest challenge in making 'implementable plans" is to ensure:
1. ownership by the stakeholders
2. Involvement of the community.
Most of the Plans are treated as "documents" meant for fulfilling mandates, while a Plan is a BLUE PRINT of the State's preparedness, mitigation & response strategy.

To make Plans implementable it is important to understand the "real" requirements of the people and then proceed in making the same, therefore a thorough "needs assessment" is extremely important  that would give a direction and in the process "involve" the community.
Hope this helps.thanks

QQuestion by Mr Claude BAUMGARTNER

After 30 years flying in Africa , I'm on the verge of setting up in
West Africa a new "Aerial Survey Service" oriented "Recovery" when "natural or industrial hazards & disasters" occur.

Operating an efficient and all-terrain aircraft like the Cessna 206 Soloy or Quest KODIAK or Sherpa K-650T

Unpaid, & volunteer pilots
Need your advice

Mr Claude BAUMGARTNER Captain | Volunteer Pilots Without Borders

APosted on 22 Oct 2014

Dear Mr.Claude,
It is wonderful to hear the dedication you have towards a noble cause.  However, I would advice you to work in partnership with the government  which would be more helpful for both of you.  In other words, the government may want certain services which you may not be aware of and would be helpful should you discuss with them and proceed ,not to mention the security aspect's involved  in aerial survey's.Hope this helps.

QQuestion by Mr Abhinav Walia

Hello madam, myself Abhinav Walia, working as Research Officer at CDM, LBSNAA, Mussoorie. I have done number of research projects related to disaster risk management and disaster management planning but observed that planning often get fails either it is a case of Uttarakhand Flash Flood 2013, J & K floods 2014 or any other. In your views, how we can develop our plans robust to deal with the worst

Mr Abhinav Walia Research Officer | Centre for Disaster Management, LBSNAA

APosted on 21 Oct 2014

Hello Abhinav,

The problem is  we are making plans by not involving the people concerned and also governments are yet to take DRR exercises as their core activity . It is more of a mandate that needs to be fulfilled. Aside from this political commitment towards the subject is needed that would bring an attitudinal change i addressing risks and planning to mitigate the same.
Hope this is helpful.

QQuestion by Hon Rajen Parekh

What are the steps and methodology required to undertake a pre-disaster mitigation assessment at the state and district level?

Hon Rajen Parekh Editor | NKBP
United States of America

APosted on 21 Oct 2014

Dear Rajen,
At any level be it National, Provincial or Local level anywhere in the world it is important  to have a "realistic" "needs assessment" with those stakeholders for whom the Plan is being made. It is often seen that the perceived requirement   does not match with ground realities.
The methodology would be:
- Participant Observation
- Questionnaire/Interview
-  Use of GIS(Geographic Information Systems) for accurate verification along-with physical verification of the places

Therefore the step would be for example: if it at the Provincial level is to ;
1. Understand the requirement with the government
2. Have interaction with all stakeholders
3. Use GIS 
The advantage for doing the above exercise would be:a) staff get involved in the making of the plan & b) a good " assessment' forms the backbone of the Disaster Management Plan & Capacity building training.
Hope this helps,Thanking you.

QQuestion by Mr Loy Rego

How do we strengthen the role of national and sub national training and technical resource centres in supporting national provincial and district governments in capacity and system building, as well as in technical support to development of DRR plan and action programs, within the Government sector and beyond ? Do share some examples of good practice from your country and region.

Mr Loy Rego Technical Advisor, Resileince and the SDGs | MARS Practitioners Network

APosted on 21 Oct 2014

Dear Loy,
 I would divide your question into two parts as far as India is concerned. Here we have the National Institute of Disaster Management and respective Administrative Institute. These are government bodies and provide routine training round the year.
On the other hand we can strengthen "training" for all as was mentioned during the 6th Asian Ministerial Meeting on DRR by OECD and this could be achieved  by bringing an attitudinal change amongst the community. Here I strongly feel the UN Agencies could play a great role in imparting training to countries across the world and percolate it down to the sub-regional and local levels in partnership with the national platforms.  This needs to be done for the next 10 years and hope" training for all on DRR" becomes one of the tenets for HFA-2.
In this context, our consultancy Centre for Disaster Risk Resilience has done some good work in terms of providing  training, preparing the Disaster Management Plan in India's holiest shrine Shri Mata Vasihno Devi Shrine Board that is managed by the Governor of Jammu & Kashmir and managed by a senior bureaucrat with 4000 staff from different agencies.The average number of pilgrims per day is 15-20,000 and on special days/weekends 40-50,000 per day. The Shrine is located in the  Himalayan mountain range at an altitude of 6,200 feet above sea-level.
For example: We actually started work in 2009 with a "needs assessment" and it has taken us near about 4 years to complete the project  to achieve compliance of the HFA 1 principles!
The staff were given based on their requirement:
- Basic Life Skill Training
- For sustaining the program,in-house master trainers were created
- Disaster Management Task Force set up thereby institutionalizing Disaster Management
- Inventory built up
- Periodic Mock Drills are conducted to find the gaps.
- Finally, DM Plan ,Standard Operating Procedures,Contingency Plan have all been done after we completed with the first phase of training.
This is one of the good practices that we had implemented and could be seen by typing "" or "swati mitra- vaishno devi"
In-fact this training had helped the administration and staff during the recent Jammu & Kashmir floods as no casualty was reported and the staff had confidence and professionalism to handle situations like landslide,evacuation, first aid.
Aside from this the current cyclone in Orissa, Andhra were examples of good preparedness by the government wherein loss of life has come down to single digits  as compared to the 1999 Super Cyclone that had killed thousands of people. 
I feel the HFA's have played an important role in terms of giving direction as to which way the DRR activities needs to be focussed!

hope this is helpful

QQuestion by Mr Loy Rego

Glad you chose the term 'implementable' plan, as many of the DM DRR CCA plans we help communities or cities make are so narrow that they fit the context of the externally funded project under which they are developed, and end with the project. Please elaborate on how to help make the needed ambitious plans which are implemented slowly and in phases, over a longer haul than the project duration?

Mr Loy Rego Technical Advisor, Resilience and the SDGs | MARS Practitioners Network

APosted on 21 Oct 2014

Dear Loy,
Thank you very much for your question. You are absolutely correct on the  narrow scope of the plans and implementation of the same that is not  only slow but actually frustrating.
However, few points I would like to point based on both my observation and project implementation in relation to India as to why this happens and the steps to be taken that may help us achieve the desired goal.
1.  The subject of Disaster Management is dynamic and before embarking on making the plan involvement of each stakeholder is necessary and this can be achieved if we do practical "capacity building" of  not only the government staff across levels but to the community as well, and then drawing the plan becomes easier. Unfortunately, the National Platforms emphasize on first making the plan, and that  is somehow perceived as  paper work.
2.It is best to combine capacity building which is providing practical training on the different aspects of disaster management response  based on the "requirement" of the place for example:what and how should people do if their area is earthquake prone? These are simple exercises but "involves" people.Therefore" Involvement" of the people is a key ingredient and this makes the "plan" implementable.
3.As for the time lines,unfortunately if it is government plans frequent transfer of key officials delays the program as Disaster Management is still to be institutionalized and is dependent more on individual key official.
The  National Platforms need to put in clauses to ensure that:
- frequent transfers are not carried on and if a project has started during someone tenure ,it needs to be completed before moving to the next post.
- Linking the project performance and sustainability  with the "key officials" Key Performance Areas that would bring strict adherence to timelines. It is noticed "project" collapse once the agencies implementing withdraw, this needs to be addressed by putting equal responsibility on those implementing the project as well.

Thanking you,hope this helps.