IssueNet Edition| Date : 25 Jun , 2013
The torrential floods in the Himalayas is one of the biggest disaster witnessed in the country over the years leading to over 600 deaths so far since June 15 2013 onwards in Uttrakhand alone. It has once again exposed India’s poor early warning mechanisms, poor disaster mitigation, and rescue and relief response.
Witness how Mumbai was brought to a halt in 2005 or the Leh mudslide in 2010. Lack of early warning mechanisms is apparent, as there were no cautionary notices issues to the locals.
India’s disaster landscape denotes high vulnerability requiring adequate attention to early warning mechanisms, mitigation, capacity building in local, state and central agencies and effective cooperation in application of the same once tragedies like the heavy rain spell in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh denotes. It is time we overcome the siloed approach to emergencies and tackle the same with synergy and a holistic approach.
Some would say that the fatalities and losses be attributed to climatic catastrophe even though extreme weather events such as cloud burst and spells of heavy rains have become the norm in recent years. Witness how Mumbai was brought to a halt in 2005 or the Leh mudslide in 2010. Disaster preparedness and mitigation thus has to cater for these extreme events. Lack of early warning mechanisms is apparent, as there were no cautionary notices issues to the locals.
There are also efforts to ensure that townships and buildings are designed to be disaster proof based on an analysis of the threats faced. There could be no reason otherwise for the crumbling of multi storeyed structures so dramatically seen on television screens. For the unfortunate who were possibly trapped inside these building it was a sad end to life’s dreams. It is time that local authorities and state and district disaster management agencies step in to ensure that norms are followed in buildings for in a multi disaster scenario to which North India is very much suspect the tragedy could be even worse. General insurance companies can also play an important role by denying insurance cover to such structures, which have been built violating all norms. The authorities responsible for sanctioning such unauthorised structures against norms for corrupt practices should be accountable and be severely punished.
The response of the state and central authorities in Uttarakhand also seems to be tardy. While a number of press releases have been issued, the lack of coordination in agencies is apparent with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MoH) apparently having launched parallel operations.
Thus the MoD highlighted that the Indian Air Force (IAF) has launched ‘Operation Rahat’, after IAF assistance was sought for rescue operations. HQ Western Air Command (WAC) promptly responded to the requests from various states for providing flood relief. The IAF, undertook the task simultaneously in the sectors of Yamunanagar, Kedarnath-Badrinath axis, Rudrapyag valley, Karcham-Puh axis.