Achieving Disaster Resilience through Continuity Planning

To realize the Vision statement mentioned in National policy on Disaster Management, India will have to change its strategy and take a different route

On 22nd May, 2017, Mr Denis Head of Communications at UNISDR said “India is the largest democracy which has braced the Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction and the first country to have drawn a national and local strategy with a short term goal achievement target set for 2020.” He further added “we would like to see this kind of action to be replicated by other countries.”

A proud moment for all people working in the field of Disaster Management on two counts. (1) Their efforts are recognized & appreciated at UN Platform and (2) they are on the ‘right’ path for implementing Sendai Framework.

For India it’s a long journey from “Flood Centric Response & Relief“ approach to a “holistic continuous process of Planning, Organizing, Coordinating and Implementing measures for Disaster Risk Reduction” as mentioned in the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

Disaster management Act, 2005 ensured a paradigm shift in our policy, from the erstwhile ‘reactive’ approach to a ‘proactive prevention, mitigation and preparedness-driven’ approach for conserving developmental gains and to minimize loss of life, livelihood and property. In the National Disaster Management Policy, 2009 the ‘Vision’ is mentioned as ‘to build a safe and disaster resilient India by developing a holistic, proactive, multi-disaster oriented and technology driven strategy through a culture of prevention, mitigation, preparedness and response’.

The Disaster Management Act, Policy and Plans are developed on the basis of lessons learnt in many disasters – natural, man-made and technological. They all are India specific. India has witnessed loss of millions of lives, more than ten millions injured and a large number continues to suffer for years after the disaster.

 

 

Let us take the example of the devastating earthquake near Koyna Nagar town in Maharashtra in 1967. The magnitude of the earthquake was R 6.6 and it occurred near the site of Koyna dam, raising questions about induced seismicity. It claimed more than 200 lives and injured more than 2,200 people. The entire Koyna Nagar Township was destroyed. During the last fifty years more than 1500 earthquakes are reported in the same area and hence nobody is willing to stay in the township. There is a great fear in the minds of people and many people including scientists feel that the Dam is wrongly located.

Let us take another example of the Bhopal Gas Leakage Tragedy of 1984.  More than  half a million people were exposed to ‘highly toxic gas MIC’ from Union Carbide Factory resulting in about 4,000 immediate deaths and more than 8,000 deaths in subsequent years due to gas related diseases. Even after 33 years about 40,000 people are under regular medication. Further, there is still a large quantity of MIC Gas in the tanks at the said factory site. We are unable to deicide the procedure to dispose of this highly toxic gas.

Although UNISDR has praised India, the above cases point out the lacuna in our implementation of disaster management plans. Our documentation in terms of Disaster Management Act, Disaster Management Policy and National Disaster Management Plan show a rosy picture. But we are not able to develop confidence among our own people about disaster management capabilities.

If we analyze the disasters during the last 50 years, we will find that the biggest problem faced by community in post-disaster scenario is ‘livelihood’. The concept of livelihood reflects the ability of people to sustain their daily needs and draws on the combination of a large array of resources. These resources strongly interplay with the ability of people to face the threat of and recover from the impact of disaster.

It happened in Koyna Nagar case fifty year back and very recently in the Malin Landslide, 2014 & Chennai Floods, 2015. People lost their livelihood and had to migrate out of the area in search of livelihood. Therefore ensuring livelihood is a crucial component of disaster management. The problem has social and financial background.

    National Disaster Management Plan, 2016 Vision statement commits to          ‘significantly decrease the losses of life, livelihoods, and assets – economic, physical, social, cultural, and environmental – by maximizing the ability to cope with disasters at all levels of administration as well as among communities and make India disaster Resilient’

In National Disaster Management Plan, 2016 the ‘Recovery’ phase is divided in three sub-phases as (i) Early – 3 to 18 months, (ii) Mid Term – upto 5 years and (iii) Long Term – within 10 years. The ‘Early Phase’ stipulates implementation of measures such as Cash for work, Resumption of markets, commerce & trade, Restoration of social services and Transitional & temporary shelters. The ‘Mid Term Phase’ stipulates implementation of measures such as Recovery of assets & livelihoods, and Reconstruction planning for housing, infrastructure, public buildings & cultural heritage buildings.

The above two paras clearly indicate that we have to concentrate on  ‘restoring livelihood’ for affected people as well as ‘developing their resilience’. But if we analyze the present status in our country, we realize that neither government organizations nor private organizations / corporates are aligned to this thought.

‘Continuity’ of operations, may be at lower level, is very vital for giving confidence to the community. No doubt providing temporary shelters is a priority, but it is equally important to ensure ‘continuity’ of operations in Industrial sector, Public & Private sectors and ensuring resumption of market & trading activity. This will reduce the burden on disaster management personnel as the trauma of the disaster gets reduced.

To achieve continuity of operations it is essential to add one more component in the ‘Disaster Management Continuum Cycle’ advocated in the National Policy on Disaster Management, 2009. A thought has been given in National Disaster management Plan, 2016 as stated above and is required to be implemented properly and rigorously.

Educating the local institutions, government organizations, corporates, and NGOs about inclusion of ‘continuity’ planning as an integral part of disaster management plan is very essential. It shall in turn make the community more disaster resilient. It’s a win-win situation. People are assured about their livelihoods and in turn their resilience is also boosted.

At AIILSG, in the New Year, let us commit ourselves to make the Public and Private sectors as well as the community aware about the ‘Continuity’ concept as enshrined in the National Disaster Management Plan, 2016 and through that make community disaster resilient.

Let us strive to make India, Disaster Resilient through Continuity Planning!

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