In recent years, India has ranked among the top three countries globally that bore the maximum brunt of natural disasters. Nearly 80,000 people lost their lives, and more than 173 crores were affected due to natural disasters between the years 2000-2019. Man-made disasters, too, are pretty deadly.
Who can forget the night of December 1984- the fateful night when Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from the factory in Bhopal? Recalling the event still sends a shiver down the spine.
Many historical events like this have shone a light on our country’s vulnerability to natural and man-made disasters. It has become necessary to plan and prepare for a disaster long before it strikes. After all, disaster mitigation and management can save the maximum number of lives and avoid damage to property.
The question that arises is what should we do to stop disasters from hitting or from causing severe damage. Given below are some steps listed under the draft national policy on disaster management.
- Communities should be involved, and awareness should be generated. This is a crucial component since they are the first responders, and therefore they should be empowered and made capable of managing disasters.
- Construction designs must correspond to the requirements according to the Indian Standards. 31st March 2016 was a nightmare for the people of Kolkata. A portion of the Vivekananda Road flyover at Girish Park crossing collapsed at noon amidst the bustling traffic. More than 18 people were crushed to death and over 78 were left injured. Poor design, construction material and lack of supervision caused a disaster that should have never struck.
- All important buildings like hospitals, railway stations, control rooms, fire stations, and major administrative centres should be evaluated timely. It was an early December morning of 2011 when a fire broke out at AMRI Hospital in Kolkata. Out of the 160 persons inside the hospital at the time, 89 lost their lives. This was a classic case of negligence as there was no implementation of Fire safety norms, as laid down by the government.
- Early warning systems like Indian Meteorological Department, Central Water Commission etc., should work efficiently, and proper measures should be taken on warning forecasts. Earlier this year, the ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation) was condemned for ignoring the warning for cyclone Tauktae. It was held responsible for the death of more than a hundred barge personnel that sank off the Mumbai coast due to the hurricane.
The earthquake in Bhuj in January 2001 exposed several loopholes in the system. There was a lack of professionally trained rescue teams, specialised dog squads and centralised resource inventory. The army did play a pivotal role in search and rescue operations and in setting up of hospitals. However, the lack of mobile hospitals and trained personnel added on to the number of deceased.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is taking steps to mitigate the damage and destruction caused by disasters. However, it is also necessary for us to take precautions and be prepared to face such emergencies. Such disasters not only cause physical injuries or losses but also leave a void in the lives of the survivors.
After experiencing havoc and destruction, people develop severe post-traumatic stress disorders. Some even form negative associations with the environment, which often leads to migrations.
Survivors and those affected need our support. From simple donations such as food and water to medical and psychological care and more, we can help rebuild and help others get back to their everyday lives in the wake of adversity. Sending funds or crucial supplies, volunteering to help, and donating in reasonable amounts is beneficial.
We all should play a part in the fighting and avoiding disasters.