Dangers of Disasters

Natural disasters have not been just causing loss to human lives but also inflicting huge damage to the economy in cities worldwide. Natural disasters around the globe have resulted in economic losses of roughly USD 7 trillion since 1900, according to a recent report. With climate change and more people migrating to cities, urban local bodies need to chalk out a foolproof, resilient strategy to trim down the long term impacts of disasters on economic growth and lessen their consequences on buzzing urban life in cities in India

Natural disasters cannot be averted but their negative impacts on environment, people and public property can be mitigated. Cities are getting congested;and the proliferation of slums and population increase in low income areas are staggering issues. These areas are the most vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters. And, in the present scheme of things in our cities, it is a fact that the most vulnerable people are the least prepared ones. It is visible in almost every post-disaster finding that the poor suffer the most because of having no safeguards at their disposal.

The marginalized sections’ exposure to disaster in low income countries is exacerbated by poverty, lack of early warning systems& readiness to handle the consequences, and an absence of the civil protection mechanisms. Being the closest to the communities, urban local bodies can act as a  bridge between the district administration, state government and local communities to make communities resilient and show cohesiveness in dealing with natural hazards.

Lessons from the past

The Indian Ocean Tsunami claimed almost 230,000 lives in several countries in December 2004. The disaster had left thousands of people homeless and bereaved. More than 10,000 tourists were also killed because they were there at the wrong time. It is among the worst disasters that India ever faced. The most damage was caused because of unpreparedness of the people living along the affected zones. The government also did not have effective early warning system but local authorities and communities living along the coast learnt their lessons and worked to improve the system. Technological advancements have made it feasible for us to predict natural disasters. This information must be disseminated to the public so that they may not be caught unawares. With the warnings given, the public must also be trained as to what to do and what not to do during a certain kind of disaster to minimize loss of lives. Community Based Disaster Preparedness training programmes need to be organized at regular intervals. Tamil Nadu has tried many models for mainstreaming disaster risk management at all levels with focus on district and community level activities in most vulnerable areas. These models can be studied and wherever feasible can be replicated for safeguarding the vulnerable populace. The vital output of these projects is multi-hazard risk management and sustainable recovery plans at community, panchayat and other administrative levels.

Cyclone is a frequent feature in the Bay of Bengal. Odisha and Andhra Pradesh have seen several instances in recent years. But the response of these two states to the cyclone in 2012 was inspiring as the loss to human lives was almost zero as the states announced the warning through multiple channels and even the most poor and the people living in far flung areas were informed and, wherever required, were evicted from danger zones.

Technological advancements have made it feasible for us to predict natural disasters. This information must be disseminated to the public so that they may not be caught unawares. With the warnings given, the public must also be trained as to what to do and what not to do during a certain kind of disaster to minimize loss of lives

Building resilience

Strong, resilient systems exist in high-income countries and help in bringing down the post-disaster impact significantly. Indian cities have witnessed almost all kinds of disasters; be it earthquakes, tsunamis, urban floods, terrorist attacks; and every incident has exposed some chinks in their armors. Building a resilient urban eco-system that can absorb the shocks of natural and man-made disasters is vital.

Disaster risk impacts in urban habitats are governed by a varied range of factors but the most important being the readiness of urban local bodies, local administration and community in the city. There are evidencesgalore where natural disaster made lesser impacts where community proactively participated in disaster risk reduction training programs and took active part in rescue programs through resident welfare associations or other social groups.

Climate change, feeble governance system, and an increasing concentration of people and assets in areas exposed to natural hazards are driving disaster risk upwards, especially in poor and developing countries. It is important that every city in the developing countries adheres to Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030(see box) to make their city more resilient and safe.

Goals in Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030

To support the assessment of global progress in achieving the outcome and goal of the present Framework, seven global targets have been agreed. These targets will be measured at the global level and will be complemented by work to develop appropriate indicators. The seven global targets are:

  1. Substantially reduce global disaster mortality by 2030, aiming to lower the average per 100,000 global mortality rate in the decade 2020–2030 compared to the period 2005– 2015;
  2. Substantially reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030, aiming to lower the average global figure per 100,000 in the decade 2020–2030 compared to the period 2005–2015;
  3. Reduce direct disaster economic loss in relation to global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030;
  4. Substantially reduce disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, among them health and educational facilities, including through developing their resilience by 2030;
  5. Substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020;
  6. Substantially enhance international cooperation to developing countries through adequate and sustainable support to complement their national actions for implementation of the present Framework by 2030;
  7. Substantially increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to people by 2030.

Source: UNDP