Expert of the Week   for  22 - 28 Jun 2015

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Himanshu Shekhar Mishra

Associate Editor-Government Affairs

New Delhi Television, NDTV Convergence Ltd. Expertise:  Political science, disaster risk reduction, media and communication.

Himanshu Shekhar Mishra works as Associate Editor-Government Affairs in New Delhi Television (NDTV) Ltd, a national television news channel based in India. As a field correspondent, he has extensively covered important developments in Government, Politics and International Affairs. He was part of Prime Minister's official entourage to the UN Annual Summit in 2003 in New York and also to Indo-Turkish Summit held in Ankara and Istanbul in September, 2003. He visited Islamabad in January, 2004 to report on the SAARC Summit and also went to Kabul in August, 2005 to report on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's official visit to Afghanistan. He covered the devastating floods in Jammu and Kashmir in September, 2014, considered the worst since 1902. Based on his experience, he went on to present a research paper titled ‘Right to Compensation in Disaster Laws’ at the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai, Japan (14th-18th March 2015). He has actively covered the functioning of the National Disaster Management Agency, India's premier institution to deal with natural and man-made disasters, since its inception. He also co-produced a documentary in 2011 on how ill-prepared India's capital New Delhi is to face earthquakes of high intensity. He holds a Master of Philosophy (M.Phil) degree from Centre for West Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). His M. Phil Dissertation was titled: "Military in Politics: A Comparative Study of Post-War Turkey and Algeria" (1999). Earlier, he finished his post-graduation in Political Science from Centre for Political Studies, JNU in 1997.

Faultlines in Indian Cities’ Disaster Response Strategy: a Case Study of Srinagar Floods

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QQuestion by Ms Shivani Gupta

How to build capacities of municipal officials and engineers for effective response and preparedness in Indian cities in the light of recent flood situations in Srinagar, Assam and Gujarat?

Ms Shivani Gupta Research Associate | Gujarat Institute of Disaster Management
India

APosted on 28 Jun 2015

Hi Shivani,



India has faced floods for centuries. Yet the first sincere effort to formulate a Disaster Management Law at the national level was initiated only in 2004. It is also significant that a full chapter on Disaster Management was included for the first time only in the Tenth Five Year Plan. What this essentially means is that for more than five decades after Independence, the Indian State's response to floods/natural disasters was unstructured and adhoc.


The first national institution to formulate a structured response to the increasing threat from natural disasters, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), was set up less than ten years ago. So, India woke up very late to respond to this challenge. That is why every year when we struggle with floods we realise how much ill-prepared we are to deal with this challenge.


You have asked a relevant question. Irrespective of how well we draft our policies, it is the official machinery at the grassroot level which has to be equipped to deal with this challenge on the ground. The chapter 2 (section 6) of the Disaster Management (DM) Act categorically assigns the responsibility of organising and training of personnel to NDMA and State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMA). Since the DM Act was ratified in December 2005, both NDMA and SDMAs have made lot of effort to train manpower working in municipal authorities/local bodies and grassroot institutions by holding special training sessions, workshops and conferences in different parts of the country. Civil society institutions have also held training sessions especially in schools and colleges to train youth on the precautions they need to take to protect themselves from the threat of natural disasters.


In turn, the Municipal authorities in Mumbai, Kolkata and many other cities have initiated serious steps to sensitize educational and other institutions and helped them formulate their own respective disaster response strategy. Capacity building has to be a long-term endeavour. We started late, so we have to work a lot more to meet the growing threat from natural disasters like floods.


This is especially important considering that floods affect the lives of hundreds of millions of under-privileged and poor every year. One can argue that in many ways the seasonal floods perpetuate poverty by wiping off meager assets landless poor build every year. Government of India has acknowledged this fact. As a Home Ministry Report argued in 2011,


“Poverty and risk to disasters are inextricably linked and mutually reinforcing. The poor section of the society is worst affected in case of disaster…Poverty also compels the poor to migrate and live at physically more vulnerable locations, often on unsafe land and in unsafe shelters. These inhabitations of the poor at such locations are either due to the fact that there is no other land available at reasonable cost or it is close to the employment opportunities. The inhabitations of the poor people on marginal land are prone to all types of disasters. The type of construction of these houses further deteriorates the condition. These dwellings made up of low cost material without giving much consideration to technical aspect are easy targets of various hazards”. (Ministry of Home Affairs, “Disaster Management in India (2011)”, Page-14).




Regards,
Himanshu Shekhar

QQuestion by Mr Denis McClean

What are Indian cities doing to prepare for heatwaves such as the one which hit recently?

Mr Denis McClean Head of Communications | UNISDR
Switzerland

APosted on 26 Jun 2015

Dear Denis Sir,


You have raised a pertinent question. The data available with the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) maintained by Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in Brussels shows that India witnessed its second worst heat wave ever in 2015 with more than 2000 reported casualties. Maximum number of deaths have been reported from Andhra Pradesh and the neighbouring state of Telangana.


In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a national radio address on 31st May himself cautioned common people to take precautionary measures to protect themselves from rising heat wave. He especially requested them to protect birds and animals in their vicinity by feeding them regularly with water.


The official documents show that some State Governments in India issued Guidelines and Action Plans for district administrations and local authorities to put in place a viable mechanism to deal with the threat posed by Heat Waves.


The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) issued an "Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan" to put in place an institutional response to deal with this challenge. In fact, the AMC initiative is a significant example of how City Administrations world over can formulate a global institutional response to the threat posed by rising heat waves. As the "Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan"document says,

"The Heat Action Plan is part of a broader collaboration between Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and public health and policy experts at the Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar, Public Health Foundation of India, Natural Resources Defense Council, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network...Additional activities have been supported by the Good Energies Foundation and the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum".

(Full Text of "Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan" is available on : http://www.ndma.gov.in/images/pdf/HAP2015.pdf)


The Odisha State Disaster Management Authority issued guidelines for the district administrations to activate the natural calamity control rooms and keep the departments like Health on alert in the event of an Heat Wave. It included the advisory to make drinking water supply arrangements in affected areas, rescheduling of school timings, change in working hours for those who do physical labour and rescheduling of public transport services etc. Similar measures were initiated by the State Disaster Management Authority in Andhra Pradesh too.


It is significant to note that Heat Waves badly affects plants too. As the Andhra Pradesh State Disaster Management Plan document says, "Heat waves have deleterious impacts on both plants and animals. In plants, excessive heat results in loss of turgor in leaves due to high evaporation. The loss of turgor is maximum during the windy hours of the day and causes desiccation resulting in dehydration of the plant...".


According to a Report of the Andhra Pradesh Govt,  horticultural crops were damaged in more than 23,000 hectares of land in the state during the heat wave of 2003 alone. (http://disastermanagement.ap.gov.in/website/APSDMP1.pdf , Page-74). What this indicates is that fact that Heat Waves also cause significant economic loss to farmers.


But what is surprising is the fact that word "Heat Wave" doesn't even figure in Government of India's National Policy on Disaster Management 2009.  (http://ndma.gov.in/images/guidelines/national-dm-policy2009.pdf). Though the National Disaster Management Plan (Part-1) specifies the following role for the Ministry of Home Affairs during a "Heat Wave":  

"Identifying vulnerable groups and their locations so to focus efforts on these areas; Establishing and facilitating access to public shelters; Ensure public access information about the risks of extreme heat ; Establishing systems to alert public health officials about high-risk individuals". (https://ndma.gov.in/images/policyplan/dmplan/Draft-NDMP-Part-I.pdf)


Met Department officials say that rising heat waves are largely because of the impact of climate change and the situation is likely to get worse in the coming years. In that case, Indian Government will have to proactively formulate a new national action plan to deal with the threat posed by heat waves.  



Regards,
Himanshu Shekhar

QQuestion by Mr Mano sinha

with incessant rains in kashmir valley again and in mumbai there is a chance of a flood again as per media reports and similarly every year mumbai faces flood like situation during rainy season and this year coupled with high tides made things difficult. What is in hour opinion could be done in kashmir valley to avoid flood situation and in mumbai to decrease the effect.

Mr Mano sinha senior consultant | Government
India

APosted on 26 Jun 2015

Dear Sir,

 

 

As I write this, a flood alert has already been issued in two districts of Kashmir. I met a senior Met Department official on Friday in charge of weather forecasting in New Delhi. He made it clear at the outset that a warning for heavy rains had already been issued 48 to 72 hours before the Kashmir valley was lashed with heavy rains early on Wednesday this week. The response of the official machinery appears proactive and visible this year. Such a proactive approach is the first step in meeting the challenge that floods pose to district administrations in any part of the world. With water levels in Jhelum river crossing the danger mark on early Thursday, the administration has already sounded flood alert in Pulwama and Anantnag districts.

 

 

During the devastating floods in Kashmir in September 2014, the security agencies involved in relief work had alleged that an actionable flood alert had not been issued by the Indian Meteorological Department. So when the flood waters began to inundate cities and small towns,the state administrative machinery was caught napping. A Home Ministry note argued that the volume of rainfall was recorded highest in Shopian district which received 2953% above normal rainfall while Srinagar district received 1410% above normal rainfall. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in its Report titled “Rescue, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction in the aftermath of the floods and landslides in Jammu & Kashmir” (tabled in Parliament on 4th December,2014), argued that such a flood situation in Srinagar had not been witnessed since 1902.

 

The challenge posed by such an unprecedented rainfall was exacerbated by the failure of state machinery in launching an effective disaster relief and rescue mission. In many ways, these unprecedented floods exposed the fault lines in India’s disaster management strategy. It showed that India’s disaster response mechanism had become ineffectual and the existing legal framework to deal with disaster management and disaster risk reduction was not being implemented on the ground even ten years after Parliament had ratified the Disaster Management (DM) Act.

 

Also, the state government had made no concerted effort to build a culture of disaster mitigation and formulate a risk reduction strategy in disaster prone areas. In fact, the Jammu and Kashmir Government had blatantly ignored a specific warning from the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), India’s premier research institution dealing with disaster management.In a Report released in 2012, the NIDM had specifically warned:

 

“The state is a multi-hazard prone region with natural disasters like earthquakes,floods, landslides…the unauthorized and unplanned construction on the riverbanks has disturbed the river ecosystem. Sand and gravel dredging or top soil denudation for brick industry to support growing real estate industry have significantly enhanced the human induced disaster risk in the eco-sensitive zones of the State”.

 

 

Considering that the State Government is still struggling to recover from the devastating impact of September 2014 floods, it might take a long time for the state administration to address the structural weaknesses in its disaster relief and response strategy and fully implement the provisions of the Disaster Management Act.

 

 

As for your query about Mumbai floods last week, the situation is under control now. But the manner in which life in Mumbai came to a standstill following a heavy downpour showed that India's business capital remains vulnerable even ten years after heavy rains had wreacked havoc here in July2005. The effectiveness of city's storm-water drainage system is again being debated and questions being raised as to whether the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has learned the lessons of 2005.

 

 

 

 

Regards,

Himanshu

 

 

THIS SESSION CONCLUDED ON

28
June
2015