Is India better prepared if a 2004-like tsunami strikes again?
“India and Indian Ocean littoral nations are in a much better position to handle a tsunami today,” says Harsh Gupta, veteran seismologist and a member of the National Disater Management Agency (NDMA). Talking about the scientific know-how that the region had gained, he added, “It is basically because of the deployment of the Indian Tsunami Early Warning System (ITEWS). An end-to-end system, this was designed after the occurrence of the December 26, 2004 tsunami. It took 30 months to commission it and it was operational by September 2007. No false alarm has been issued by it. ITEWS is now considered among the best in the world.”
And what about disaster preparedness and management? “The situation is quite different now,” says Krishan Kumar, assistant commandant & PRO, NDRF. “In response to the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, committees were formed, which gave various recommendations about how to manage natural disasters in India. All this resulted in the passage of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, which led to the formation of agencies like the NDMA, NDRF and District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA).”
Gupta, however, disagrees on the question of disaster preparedness. “Policies are in place, the question is proper implementation, which is lacking,” he notes.