When one thinks of Disasters, it naturally crosses one’s mind if only it had been averted. Disasters are by their very nature unpredictable and happen inspite of the best efforts. It appears to be so sudden and powerful that one attributes it to ones fate. This is what make each of the disasters remarkable and larger than life. Even though all precautions are taken, yet they happen and the sheer ferocity of their occurrence brings terror to one’s heart. It is hard to believe that except for a chance event of the affected people being part of the disaster, they might very well be alive.
The scene of the disaster is heart-rending and what comes to mind is the horror of what happened and one is compelled to feel sorrow for the victims of the disasters.Whether it is the Hurricane Katrina, Wilma, Recent Earthquake in India, Tsunamis, Chernobyl Nuclear Tragedy, Bhopal Gas Tragedy (India), Hurricane Andrew 1992, cyclone at Darwin Australia (1974) etc; each of the disaster has a unique story to tell: if only it could have been avoided and here lies the importance of pre-disaster management policy.
Some times our stereotypical attitudes and lack of proper policy implementation often leads to failure to recognize THAT RELIEF AND DEVELOPMENT are inextricably linked and part of the same on-going process. It is now being acknowledged that disasters an wipe out years of development and can dramatically increase vulnerability An increasing number of Governments and International Organizations are promoting risk reduction as the only sustainable solution for reducing the Social, Economical and Environmental impacts of disasters. Risk Reduction strategies includes vulnerability mapping identification of areas that are safe for settlement and development adoption of building codes based on disaster resilient engineering and on local hazard risk assessments and enforcing these plans and codes by economic and other incentives.
I want to stress on the points of local capacities and pre-disaster management to safeguard the precious lives of our brothers and sisters of my planet. One of the most important of these concerns is to build local capacities. The rationale here is based on recognition that local communities have developed their own, indigenous, preparedness and mitigation activities based on their extensive experiences of living with disasters. (All too often in the past, these have been overlooked or undervalued by Disaster Management Specialists from Outside)
Let me give some examples:
In India, one tribal group living in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands understood the coming of the arrival of the slayer Tsunami and fled to a safer place long before the killer waves would have engulfed them. An art of their own, passed from generations to generations. In Africa, there are a lot of food shortages due to drought; but they are able to prevent full blown famine by employing a variety of ‘coping’ mechanisms that allow them to ride out the hungry season until the next harvest. Also I believe that successful disaster prevention depends partly upon being able to predict these crisis before they happen. Though Disasters happen with great regularity, I believe that we should do research as how to stop these natural calamities rather than forecasting it’s arrival.
To that effect, we should stress the need for natural barriers for cyclones and hurricanes, rainwater harvesting methods for continuous supply of water even in the driest seasons, concepts on recharging of groundwater in the driest part of the world. Stressing the need to use methods for liberation of energy from the faults in the earth-strata, so that the release of the enormous energy from the bottom of the earth will stop earthquakes happening! Also we should stress on the afforestation initiatives in catchment areas basins.
I believe this basic research can enable us to understand the water-soil-climate system better. This can lead to new thinking and new avenues of action, which can yield larger stable production within the existing constraints.
The effort spent in basic research and the policies obtained from those pays for it many times over, though not necessarily immediately.
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The views given above are personal.
Disaster Management Specialist and Writer