REMEMBERING THE ‘TSUNAMI’: NEED FOR DISASTER MANAGEMENT

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Nature rules us all. The bountiful nature that sustains the entire living world on our planet has a furious face as well. Traumatized by the towering waves of Tsunami – the most savage force of nature – that hit the South-East Asian Coastlines, humankind is reminded of it’s helplessness in the face of Nature’s fury, although timely warning of such unstoppable disasters can surely help in lessening the overall devastation.

Have you ever imagined gigantic sea waves, moving nearly at the speed of a jet plane, appearing without a warning and hitting the coastlines like a ‘water bomb’. Loaded with enormous energy, the killer waves wreck havoc by flooding several kilometers inland, as they flatten houses and wipe out villages, uproot electric poles, throw cars into swirling waters and toss boats ashore all in a mad furry and finally, drag thousands of hapless victims out to the Sea as they recede. Sounds of pathetic wails engulf the area as loved ones are separated from each other and some forever… Leaving a trail of total destruction, the ruinous waves simply spell disaster. Unfortunately, this is not a scene from a horror movie but is a real life happening.

This natural disaster, known as ‘tsunami’ (soo-NAH-mee) – a destructive, ocean-riding wave created by an undersea disturbance – struck the coastal areas of South-East Asia in the early hours of Sunday, 26th December, 2004. Caught unware by the waves of doom by the fury of sea waves were scores of human lives and suddenly as the hell broke loose, the beautiful beaches brimming with life a few hours ago, transformed into graveyards with dead bodies lying amid torn fishing nets, smashed boats and debris strewn all around.

Millions suffered the terrifying burnt of the assault while thousands of people died an unnatural death. The worst hit nation is Indonesia where a staggering one lakh are estimated to have perished in the wake of this mammoth devastation. Sri Lanka was also hit very brutally by tsunami; as the death toll has been about 31,000 in this island nation.

Tsunami is a Japanese word represented by two characters; tsu and nami. The character tsu means ‘harbour’ while the character nami means ‘wave’. Most tsunami is occured in the Pacific Ocean. Some deadliest Tsunamis are: November 1st, 1755 (Lisbon, Portugal and much of Europe) killed 60,000 people. August 27th, 1883: Eruptions from the Krakatoa volcano fueled a tsunami; killing 36,000 people. June15th, 1896: Sea waves as high as 30 meters, spawned by an earthquake , which swept the east coast of Japan killing 27,000 people. March 27th, 1964: known as ‘Alaskan Good Friday’ earthquake that measured 8.4 on Ricter Scale, generated a tsunami and killed many people in Cresent City, northern California. July17th, 1998 an earthquake of magnitude 7.1 generated a Tsunami in Papua New Guinea that killed 2,200 people.

Though Tsunami’s are often referred to as tidal waves but this is incorrect as tides can also happen due to gravitational influences of the Moon, Sun, and Planets. A point to note is that tsunami’s are not always due to ‘Seismic sea waves’, as they may also be generated due to landslides, volcanic eruptions and quite rarely by the import of a large meteorite falling in the Ocean.

The Asian toll took over 1,50,000 lives, the death toll in India rose to 9,451 by January 2nd, 2005 with 5,511 persons missing. The number of deaths stood at 812 in the Andaman and Nicober Islands, 574 in Pondicherry, 166 in Kerala and 106 in Andhra Pradesh. Around 5,421 were missing in the case of Andaman and Nicober Islands; out of this; 4,657 were missing from Katchal Islands alone. An estimated 10,000 people are said to have died in the Nicober group of islands. The islands were badly hit, both, beacuse of their proximity to the epicentre of the earthquake and the fact that the tectonic activity actually led to the subsidence of the islands. Great Nicober, the southern most island in the group is about 150 km from the epicentre at Banda Aceh in Sumatra in Indonesia. A good indicator is the fact that the light house at Indira Point, the southernmost tip of Great Nicober Island, now stands in the ocean waters, when earlier it was at least about 100 metres inland from the high tide line.

In the first few days of the tragedy, little was known of the destruction that had occured further South in the Central Nicober group comprising the inhabitated islands of Nancowry, Camorta, Katchal, Trinket, Chowra, Peressa and Bompoka and the Southern group where there were human population on Great Nicober, Little Nicober, Pilomilo and kondul. The worst hit region by the Tsunami was Indonesia, which lost more lives than any other country. Dozens of bloated bodies littered the streets of Banda Aceh city as soldiers and desperate relatives searched for survivors of the earthquake and tidal waves. Several hundred bodies collected by the emergency workers lay under plastic tents and rotting on December 27th, 2004. Dozens of bodies were laid in ruins in Banda Aceh, capital of Aceh province. In sumatra a million people were left homeless. Villagers in Sunadon district were picked through the debris of their ruined houses amid the smell of decomposing bodies. Atleast 4,491 persons were killed on Sumatra island and on Nais, an isolated island that lies west of Sumatra. So, apart from India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, countries affected are Thailand, Malaysia, Somalia and Maldives.

The titanic tsunami that wrought unprecented death and destruction in South and South-east Asia will go down in history as one of the greatest natural calamities of modern times.

The Titanic Tsunami that wrought unprecedented death and destruction in South and South-East Asia will go down in history as one of the greatest natural calamities of modern times. The great disaster caught the people and the Government off guard and in a matter of minutes, snuffed out more than 1,50,000 lives across more than twelve countries. The number of people rendered homeless might run into millions as no estimate is immediately available as to how many children have become orphans or how many women have become widows and how many families have been wiped out in a single sweep. The biggest ever International relief operation was on; as the fear of an epidemic loomed large.

The catastrophe spawned by tsunami once gain underscored the need for a well-planned disaster management; it did show that we are totally ill-prepared to cope up with such kind of crisis, natural or man-made.

Years passed but still that old question comes to my mind; Are we ready for another Tsunami?” If History repeats itself; shall again our brothers and sisters have to meet the same fate, which was faced by the people on 26th December, 2004?”

The enormity of the tragedy that overtook South Asia would have been eased the countries had a good international warning system and good awareness programs about the do’s and don’ts in the fall out of a deadly disaster (Pre-disaster management policies).

The Department of Space, India have already established more than 250 cyclone warning receivers that can be activated via satellite; all these is very useful for tsunami warning. more such receivers is the need of the time. The time has also come to stress on community education keeping along with the disaster management theme of this year that “disaster Management” should begin at School. This will enable the people to know exactly what they should do; when the warning is sounded.

Disasters like cyclones, droughts, floods, earthquakes, Tsunamis and now biological and along with man-made tragedies along with communal riots due to race, ethnicity or religion is leading to Social disasters, may become burning issues in the years to come. We have to join hands to stop it happening and celebrate with the true spirit of humanity to make a disaser free world for us as well as for our future generations.

So, what is required is a comprehensive blueprint as to how to cope with such crisis in both the short-term and long-term manner. There need to have good mass awareness programs stressing the importance of pre-disaster management policies; along with that there needs to be social, physical, emotional or physcological and economic rehabilitation in the wake of a massive disaster. Ever step need to be taken to help the victims forget for ever, the trauma they have taken gone through.
Its true that this is not an easy task.

The orphans need a home and parents who can adopt them. Most of the victims have to start life a fresh begining with a new home and a new vocation. Its a gigantic task where the fortunate ones who have escaped the fury of nature must contribute their mite so that the calamity struck brethen must feel that there are others who care for them.

Lastly I just want to stress on the point that It’s not the Government agencies alone, but every citizen must act to help others in distress.

Thanks a lot for taking your time and reading this article. Please ‘Sign in’ at the Guestbook and place your views. Lets join hands to make a better world for us; as well as for our future generations.

Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist and Writer

Website:   http://www.theideas.in/

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DISASTER MANAGEMENT NEEDS AND GREEN TOWNS

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Across the world, there is a rapid increase in urban living and an ever greater understanding of the consequences of Global Climate Change. Indian Town is experiencing warmer weather, hotter summers and delayed winters. Even, we can expect much greater changes in the decades ahead.

The population is increasing day by day and with no specific control on the increasing population explosion, there is a fierce struggle for land and space. There is also an increase in the intake of food and water. So, all these factors lead to an increase in demand graph and supply chart seems to go down. This is a worrying fact for a town, which needs to survive this trouble times.

Hence, we need to find some sustainable approach to keep a balance. The approach should be in areas concerning water, land, food and the air we breathe. All these are the basics of human survival. Let us take the example of water. It’s not the simple expansion of irrigation. It had an ecological and social dimension as well and was the key to rural transformation. Providing a limited but assured quantity of water to all urban households irrespective of their landholding is the key for water conservation. Now, to serve such dispersed need, the systems required had to be entirely different – technologically and socially. The population of the world tripled in the 20th century and now the use of renewable resources have grown six fold. Within the next fifty years the World population will increase by 40%-50%. Now this population growth coupled with industrialization and urbanization will result in an increasing demand of water and will have serious consequences in the environment. Already there is more waste water generated and dispersed today than at any other time in the history of our planet: more than one out of six people lack access to safe drinking water, namely 1.1 billion people, and more than two out of six lack adequate sanitation, namely 2.6 billion people

(Estimation for 2002, by the WHO/UNICEF JMP, 2004). One must know that these figures represent only people with very poor conditions. In reality, these figures should be much higher.

Less availability of water leads to water stress. Water stress results from an imbalance between water use and water resources. The water stress indicator in this map measures the proportion of water withdrawal with respect to total renewable resources. The depleting resource leads to many tensions over neighbors, communities, districts, states and countries. So, it is a real fact that there is a water crisis today. “But the crisis is not about having too little water to satisfy our needs. It is a crisis of managing water so badly that billions of people – and the environment – suffer badly.” World Water Vision Report

With this current state of affairs, correcting measures still can be taken to avoid the crisis to be worsening. There is an increasing awareness that our freshwater resources are limited and need to be protected both in terms of quantity and quality. This water challenge affects not only the water community, but also decision-makers and every human being. “Water is everybody’s business” was one the key messages of the 2nd World Water Forum. Indian Towns are no different.

Another challenging factor, which haunts an Indian town, is Green Cover.

As per the report of National Institute of Environmental Studies, Bangalore has a Green Cover of 8.60 per cent, National Capital Region (New Delhi): 8.49 per cent, Greater Mumbai: 6.20 per cent, Chennai: 7.50 percent. The most astonishing fact is that Kolkata has a very less Green cover of 0.95 per cent. The numbers indicate percentage of green cover as a proportion of the total area for major Indian towns. Needless to say, the list — prepared by the Delhi-based National Institute of Environment Studies.

(NIES), who had made it clear that Calcutta has the lowest green count among all the towns.

It’s stated that as per the established norms the green cover should be atleast 15 percent for mega-towns for a population of one – million. Lack of open space and greenery increases air pollution and triggers respiratory and other problems, besides raising temperature, affecting biodiversity and causing psychosomatic disorders among citizens. According to the report it also states that the Green Cover of the town has continuously been depleting from 1.3 per cent in 1997-98 to 0.95 per cent in 1999-2000, due to indiscriminate felling of trees due to various reasons.

Hence, it is very clear that most Indian Towns faces many environmental challenges. The Project recognizes that a variety of methods will be needed to tackle climate change and its consequences and that living roofs and walls can play a significant role in tackling the situation. The greening of a roof can support rare and interesting types of plant, which in turn can host or provide suitable habitat for a variety of rare and interesting invertebrates.

These would serve many purposes:
a) Help to reduce global warming and green house gas effect
b) Help to reduce urban heat island effect (UHIE)
c) Help to reduce energy and carbon-dioxide emissions
d) Help to enhance bio-diversity, reduce flood, earthquake, cyclone and other disaster risks, provide insulation and improve the appearance of the town.

Creation of Green Bus Shelters will not only increase the green cover. The mission would be to increase the green look of the town as well as educate the public about the many environmental benefits of green roofs, as well as improve urban air quality and provide attractive waiting spaces for public transit users. The Green Bus Shelters will serve the following purposes:

a) Filtering air pollution and particulates from vehicle exhaust
b) Managing storm water by slowing the runoff rate
c) Adding an extra layer of insulation to roofs
d) Providing wildlife habitat opportunities in a dense urban area.

The next concept is Rain water harvesting and creation of Rain Homes. This will together create a Sustainable Rain Neighbourhoods. A sustainable neighbourhood is a mixed used area with a feeling of community. It is a place where people want to live and work, now and in the future. Sustainable neighbourhoods meet the diverse needs of existing and future residents, are sensitive to their environment, and contribute to a high quality of life. They are safe and inclusive, well planned, built and run, and offer equality of opportunity and good services to all. (Bristol Accord, 6-7 December 2005)

Sustainable Rain Neighbourhoods will make the communities have access to round the clock usage of water, irrespective of the number of people through effective capturing, storing and usage of Rain water.

Wastes and its disposal is another problem which haunts a metropolitan town. Human is behind every developmental sector. The large scale production and improper disposal of waste has become a source of pollution and further accumulation of garbage has resulted in serious deterioration of quality of life and the ecological balance. An initiative need to be taken on the need of systemic waste management.

An example of Kolkata states that approximately more than 2920 ton/d of solid waste are generated in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) area and the budget allocation for 2007–2008 was Rs. 1590 million (US$40 million). Major deficiencies were found in all elements of Solid Waste Management. Lack of suitable facilities (equipment and infrastructure) and underestimates of waste generation rates, inadequate management and technical skills, improper bin collection are responsible for poor collection and transportation of municipal solid wastes. The project tries to give focus in this grey area and encourages segregation of wastes in homes. Segregation of waste right is a solution to the problem and the project focuses on this initiative.

Waste can be segregated as
1. Biodegradable
Organic waste, e.g. kitchen waste, vegetables, fruits, flowers, leaves from the garden and paper
2. Non-biodegradable
Recyclable waste – plastic, paper, glass, metal etc
Toxic waste – old medicines, paints, chemicals, bulbs, spray cans, fertilizer and
pesticide containers, batteries, shoe polish.
Soiled – hospital waste such as cloth soiled with blood and other body fluids.

Toxic and soiled waste must be disposed of with utmost care.

For any project to be successful, there need to create lot of awareness campaigns. The purpose of the campaign would be to help everyone learn how to make the town a better place to live, in both small and big ways. The project will focus on creation of WORLD BANK Calendars, posters, hoardings along with the State/Local Government for conservation of energy and water, reducing noise levels and importance of increasing Green Cover in the town.

The project hence focuses on the following:
a) Water Conservation ways
b) Creation of Sustainable Rain Neighbourhoods by creation of ‘RAIN HOMES’ and Rain Water Harvesting Method
c) Reducing the impact of natural disaster risks
d) Creation of Green Bus Shelters
e) Creation of Green living roofs and walls
f) Segregation of Wastes Bins
g) Calendar, Poster, Hoarding on conservation of energy and water, reducing noise levels and importance of increasing Green Cover.
g) Tie- up with local FM channels.

CONCLUSION:

Across the world there is a rapid increase in urban living and an ever greater understanding of the consequences of global climate change. Indian Cites is experiencing warmer, wetter winters; hotter, drier summers and we can expect much greater changes in the decades ahead. As population increases, we are developing more sustainable approaches to development, using natural systems to shape and support growth. Excellent architecture and urban design is required if the Town has to adapt to the extremes of climate change. The concept would help to solve the existing environmental problem and make a Green Town with clean air – a role model for other mega towns that are contending with similar problems. The activities of the proposal will develop the technological concepts that make life in tomorrow’s mega towns easier, kinder and more pleasant to the environment.

For further details, please contact:

Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist

Website:  http://www.theideas.in/

1900 STORM AND NEED FOR CYCLONE SHELTERS

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A daily newspaper reporter in 1900 said the story of September 8, 1900, hurricane could never be truly written. This story will ever remain memorable in the minds of the people then living along the coasts of the city. The story would definitely again remind us the horror of what can happen , when the winds blow and the tides rise along the coasts of a country. These stories and many more is giving rise to the concepts of Cyclone Shelters.The tale of death, devastation and eventual recovery is close to he hearts of Galvestonians. And as it’s stories are passed on again, the 1900 storm will become part of the history of another generation.

If people says that they had family who had died or survived the storm, there is no doubt that they are referring to a family history that goes back more than 100 years.

In the years before the great storm of Sep 8, 1900, Galveston had grown from a small settlement on the texas coast into one of the wealthiest cities in the country. There were natural deep water channel, which made Galveston the most important seaport in Terxas. Trains carried cargo to and from the port, and ships travelled across the seas. In fact almost more than 70 percent of the country’s cotton crop at that time passed through the port of Galveston, and some 1000 ships called on the port annually.

The shallow waters made it easy for bathers to wade safely several yards offshore and enjoy what was considered to be a therapeutic bathing in the Gulf. But the storm left behind a legacy that extends across the country. As families moved from the island, they carried with them the story of that night. The city was home to about 37,000 people.

It was September 8th, 1900, when the waters began to rise in the morning. Children played in flood waters, which began as early as dawn. when cline then chief meterologist of the US weather Service Station in Galveston, began his observations and he noticed Gulf water creeping over the low ends of the island. According to his memoirs, he knew at that moment of impending danger. He rode up and down the beach and urged the visitors of the coming danger. Some facts which were stunning are :

In 1900, higher ground was a relative term. The highest house in the city was at an elevation between 8 and 9 feet. Till today, we even do not know, if the coastal areas have houses at a minimum elevation. I think the answer is negative. If “Yes”, then i do not think that ‘Tsunami’, could have created such a havoc on the Java, sumatra and Indian Coasts.

But even Cline’s warning proved fruitless as the night approached. By the peak of the storm, no part of the island remained dry. It was estimated that the wind speed exceeded 120 miles per hour, according to Cline. But today with modern techniques it is found out that the wind must have been between 130 – 140 miles per hour to produce the extreme tide and storm surge of the 1900.

The 15 1/2 – foot storm surge rolled over the island from gulf to bay. Houses collapsed, and as the surge continued, a wall of debris described as at least two – stories high pushed across the island. The wall destroyed everything in it’s path, building force as it moves across the island. Pictures taken after the storm show empty streets. No people. No animals. No personal belongings. Only piles of debris that buried families beneath the remains of their homes. Bodies occasionally hang outside the debris piles. But for most part, an eerie emptiness paints a picture few words could describe.

The stench of decaying bodies and of fish and other animals rotting in the streets is unimaginable. For all practical purposes, the island was destroyed that night.

While no one wants to imagine a storm that could match the strength and lasting effects of that one, any future storm, no matter its devastation, will be compared to be the benchmark of Texas Storm – The Great Storm of September 8, 1900, in which six thousand died and thirty thousand  survived to tell the story and rebuild the city. 

Thanks and Regards,

Mainak Majumdar, Specialist Disaster Management

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

DISASTER MANAGEMENT AND CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY ARTICLE

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a ‘term’ quite frequently used these days and more and more corporate are coming forward to take this challenge. Let it be the Media sector, the Insurance Sector, the Retail sector, the Petrochemical Sector, the Chemical Sector, Food & Beverages, IT Industry, Healthcare Industry, Telecommunications Industry, Automotive, Construction Industry, Crafts, Energy, Banking and Insurances every corporate are trying to find ways of spending money for social responsibility.

As intensive researches are carried on in the best universities of the world, the first initiatives on CSR are generally taken by oil and chemical industries. There is a rise to prominence of CSR in particular companies, we also observe the emergence of something like the CSR ‘movement’ with a aim to find ways to serve humanity as well as finding business opportunities in the growing popularity of the subject.

The reasons are simple; the earth has seen so many natural disasters along with changes in environmental phenomenon due to rapid growth of industrialization. The money received from environment is now being thought to be utilized for the construction of the same. It’s like the saying which states that whatever energy we spent in our entire life for wealth at the cost of our health is later spend for our own wellbeing. These days even customers and clients look at their brands for something new done for society.

Pressures from Media, NGO’s, International Organizations, Government are making corporate to take up tasks which give fast results and are fast visible, which are dangerous because it do not serve any purpose for the community and neither for the organization.

While the world is still researching into CSR, there is a need to understand its long term goals, its long term indications, before any investment decisions are taken. If we take a closer look at the recent rise of CSR, some might well argue that this ‘new’ management idea is all about a recycled fashion; something which again sees ‘business in new way’. It’s actually more than that, it’s about ensuring more humane working conditions for its employees, building good healthcare systems, creating new educational opportunities for the have-nots, making development in areas where people fight for basic amenities and lots more. It’s absolutely not about standing in front of a hungry man providing him/her food with your industry’s photograph. That doesn’t help.

Some of the questions which arise are:

a) Are we investing something which will serve the community in long term?

b) Are we investing keeping in mind the long term objectives of the organizations?

c) Are we really doing something apart from writing reports on corporate social responsibility?

d) Are the amount allotted for CSR meeting the needs of the needy and targeted people?

e) Are the money used for the organizational goal increasing your brand value in real terms?

While all these questions looms around, we need to introspect on our policies and plans with new innovations. Marketing is a secondary thing and brand value increases when those thoughts are put into action and things starts moving on ground. There are industries who had served many in different fields and those industry leaders still flashes in our minds as souls who came into this world to bring a change. Their company values are not counted by their financial strength in billions but by their work which had touched a billion hearts. There are many positive events happening in the world on CSR as Industry associations are coming forward to coordinate and create synergies among individual business approaches to CSR.

Let’s be that messiah for change and lets that thought of change percolates through our minds and together move towards a safer world for our future generations.

Thanks and Regards,

Mainak Majumdar

Assistant Director in Industry Association/Body

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

NATURAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT AND NEED FOR PLANNING PROCESS

Disaster Management is a combination of environmental, developmental and social issues coupled with administrative directives, operational skills of an organization and its capacities to implement those to lessen the adverse effects of an emergency. The other important constituent of risk management is precise information flow which in itself is a form of disaster response in its own right.

May it be a Mexican Earthquake or an 8.7 earth shattering phenomenon at the city of Banda Aceh or the northern tip of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island or Chile or Haiti Earthquake, which leads to eradication of hundreds of lives.
Seismic activities occur everywhere and coupled with floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, drought & landslides, they compose a complete chronicle of human destruction. The challenges seem to be more and but it also provides saving options. The risks faced due to any environmental disaster are not only due to losses in lives, environment, health status, livelihoods and assets but also for the services that could occur in a particular community or a society over some specified future time period.
Environmental Calamity Management is a highly complex problem and has diverse manifestations. It is a phenomenon which affects people in different ways and is the result of social, cultural, economic and political factors. It is to be noted that all crises do not give rise to emergencies and the radical changes do not mean that it is always in negative.
The vision of the policy makers should be to assist the vulnerable and poor people to bring about positive change and to support their capacity to withstand adverse changes that may affect their social and economic developments. The changes should be made after proper judgment as any changes for the vulnerable people or the communities may give rise to a crisis that may overpower their capacity to cope and hence is an uncalled emergency. Crisis is not only about this unexpected catastrophe but also the sum-up of this slow build-up of political, social, economic and environmental factors. Along with all these issues, there is a combination of unexpected incident such as cyclone, flood, earthquake, drought or any other type of major accidents, which would definitely add to these changes in a very negative way. Hence, it is critical that relief interventions addresses these issue which are the standing parameters for a crisis and which leads to Environmental Catastrophes.
It is this inequity and poverty, which make people more vulnerable to the effects of Natural and Industrial Hazards. It is a well known fact that Natural Resources are divided into two categories, renewable and non-renewable sources of energy. Human Beings would never lack vital materials if he/she would adjust his population size and resource demands at or below the level that allows the biogeochemical cycles to operate in such a way that materials as well as organizations are “reassembled” as fast they are “dispersed”. The shift from “special interest conservation” to “total ecosystem conservation” helps to establish the fact that human beings are a part of a complex environment which must be studied, treated and modified as a whole and not on the basis of isolated “projects”. Hence there is a need to take cautions while tampering with the Environment with lakes to draining, fillings, dredging, pollutions, stabilizations, mosquito control, algae control and the planting of any fish, which are able to swim. It is we humans, who constrict them with levees and dams and then flush them with dredging, channelizations and floods and silt of bad farming.
The other most important factor is proper flow of information. Responding to the Indian Ocean Tsunami Aid Agencies distributed remarkable amounts of relief aid. But despite this, some needy groups were missed. In some cases, aid went to men and the specific needs of women were not met. In others, aid went to dominant social groups, sidelining tribal people and outcastes. Information about them was lacking.
The obvious questions are: Does the people in a disaster stricken area get enough information? Do they receive the caution before a natural disaster? Do the people of a country have the power to involve themselves in management of environmental disasters?
In a disaster area, there are different types of information: It includes everything from facts to deep understanding & may include lies and deception. It should be kept in mind that gathering data is a one-way process. If one has to acquire knowledge and wisdom, we need to involve and exchange ideas and analyze those in the light of experience, through discussion and interviews or multiple channels of communication.
If the disaster victim can recognize an aid agency’s capacity and viewpoints, they can give better advice as how to help them. It is the dialogue than the data that matters.
If we analyze the intensity of a cyclone & its destruction, the deaths and damages caused, it would indicate very diverse co-relationship between the economic leader of the countries and the actual loss of the communities. One of the deadliest cyclones- the cyclone Bhola of 1970 in East Pakistan was classified as Category III (maximum wind speed 205 km) and it killed three hundred thousand people while the economic loss was estimated at US$ 86.4 million.
If we go back to 2004’s hurricane season at Cuba, the country proved again how effective it is in protecting human life from the worst disaster. It was Hurricane Charley which swept into Cuba on 13th August 2004 where 70,000 houses were severely destroyed and four people died. When hurricane Ivan came to the coastline of Cuba, with greater force, over 2 million people were evacuated but none of them lost their lives.
So, how does Cuba do wonders and save lives from the clutches of such horrible hurricanes?
They overpower natural catastrophes as they take Disaster Management in a broader sense addressing issues and policies related to environmental sustainability, social sustainability, information flow and channelization of those in masses and also focus on needs for good quality education in environmental disaster management.
In Cuba, evacuation orders are mandatory – an important distinction from other neighboring countries. Public transport is provided to get people to shelters. Local branches of Federation of Cuban Women help and persuade reluctant people to accept evacuation, so it is rare that the police or army has to step in.
There is a need to ensure that disaster mitigation efforts are not just top to down and is rather based on direct information from the communities.
Risk Mapping is about consideration of direct link from the environmental factors, logical responses and changing pattern of tensions and relationships. Social division and inequality effect risks and its management. Hence there is a need to develop a methodology for analyzing conflict, which should be based on drawing up ‘maps’ of causes and can be superimposed on a similar map of responses.
The next factor is Environmental Sustainability. When the human population of an area is small, poor land use may affect only the people who are guilty of bad judgment. As the population increases, everyone suffers if land is improperly used because everyone eventually pays for rehabilitation or is now too often the case; everyone suffers a permanent loss of resources. A small example is if grasslands in low regions are plowed up and planted to wheat (poor land use), a “dust bowl” or temporary desert will sooner or later be a result. If the grass cover is maintained and moderately grazed (good land use), no dust bowl will likely to be developed. It is a general observance that good land use planning has come only after human has first destroyed or damaged a landscape. It is just as the saying goes that Human does not seem to understand a system which he did not build and therefore he seemingly must partially destroy and rebuild before use limitations are understood.
One solution to these problems are:
i) Cluster development: A cluster development of residential housing around village or town centers with each unit separated by broad green belts.
ii) By retaining stream valleys, steep slopes, lakes, marshes, aquifer recharge areas, waste disposal areas free from houses, buildings, and other high density uses. Without such planning, there might be no open space, and which would lead to the same kind of urban blight, chronic pollution and social disorder that we now observe in older, unplanned cities.
Generally, the short term profits that can be made by exploiting urban land are so huge that it is difficult for people to foresee the socio-ecologic backlashes and overshoots that accompany uncontrolled growth.
With the increase in population, food supplies will reduce resulting in increasing prices.
In other words, the size and quality of the “environmental house” should be an important consideration and not the number of resources; we can relentlessly squeeze from the earth. A reasonable goal could be to stress on the fact that a third of all land could be under open space use. The dependence of a city on the countryside for all its vital resources (food, water, air and so on) and the dependence of the country on the city for economic resources become so widely recognized that the present political confrontation that exists between the rural and urban populations is obliterated.
The next obvious aspects are creation of Sustainable Livelihoods. The real basis for assessing the appropriateness of any type of intervention is an understanding of livelihood systems and the strategies in which people are already engaged, the problems which they face and the ways in which they are adapting to changing environmental and economic conditions. The notion of “livelihood” systems” takes into account the wide range of people’s roles, activities, personal capacities and resources, which make up the way they make a living; and how these elements are related to each other.
It is here comes the concept of serving the poor profitability. These are the people who have great needs, but they can’t express their requirements in a way which may matter to markets. Markets seem to avoid the needs as it doesn’t bring profit and hence poor always tend to remain poorer. It is where Government and corporate houses comes into play and try to make a difference. But today Corporate Social Responsibility seemed to break that ‘tax free’ attitude and has come for the betterment of the World as more World Business Leaders tries to come forward with their aim to improve the smaller parts of the globe where their presence is felt.
Hence the ways forward are:
a) Recognize that Environmental Sustainability is a must for containing a Disaster
b) Recognize that Social Sustainability along with development is necessary for good Risk Reduction
c) Recognize information as a form of disaster response in its own right
d) Support better access to information and communications along with technology for vulnerable communities
e) Build a partnership for sharing information with communities, local governments, media, telephone companies and Industries.
f) Women and men of all ages from disaster affected areas and wider local populations, including vulnerable groups should receive information about the assistance programme and are given the opportunity to comment to the assistance agency during all stages.
Its then we could save many number of human lives with minimum causalities.

Please send your feedback in the e-mail address given below.
Thanks and Regards,
Mainak Majumdar
Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

DISASTER MANAGEMENT: POLICY PAPER FOR EARTHQUAKE MANAGEMENT

(This is a policy for Earthquake Management – If you are from any Government, Non-Governmental Organizations or Industries, please feel free to write to me at:   mainakmajumdar9@gmail.com)

It was in the eighteenth century when thinkers like Malthus perceived that Nature was similar to an organization, which worked through checks and balances. If the earth was overcrowded, natural calamities occurred and reduced the population. On the other hand, humans possibly by its own choice maintained this balance through restraint and planning. Humans couldn’t but exploit natural resources if he/she has to live a comfortable life and on the other hand nature needs to maintain her stability. There need to be an equilibrium between the needs and growth, otherwise a breakdown occurs and the obvious question that surrounds us is to what degree can this disturbance be absorbed by nature. It’s true that our environment is bounteous but not infinitely so. The only intelligent way to solve this crisis is to reconsider the degree of exploitation which humans can afford for serving the purpose.

Emergency Management not only concerns environmental, social, financial and political set ups but also is eminently concerned with the acts of human in addition to its cognitive, effective and evaluative process. Behavior at the time of catastrophes refers not simply to visible political action but also to those perceptual, motivational and attitudinal components which craft for human political identification demands and his system of benefits, values and goals. Behaviouralism is one of the most important developments in this century. Now this new and modern approach is made applicable for the study of disaster management.

In simple words, behaviouralism emphasizes scientific, objective and value free study of political phenomenon as conditioned by the environment, particularly the behaviour of the individuals involved in the phenomenon. It’s from here came the concepts of ‘Society’, ‘Institution’, ‘Custom’, and the likes.

If for example someone mentions ‘the community’, we generally identify the particular reference on or after the context. He /She may be speaking of his home town or the ‘French Community’ or particular groups of place of worship or even about the nation. Again, if a speaker mentions ‘the crowd’, we may generally be sure that he is referring to say, ‘the rush hour crowd’ and not the ‘sporting crowd’. If we look deeply into this then one is clear that each of this represents a different kind of social phenomenon, but the context of conversation leads us to the correct choice. Each of the above ‘referents’ are provided by the circumstances. For example, when the sociologist speaks of ‘the community’, we are referring to a form of social organization which may be distinguished from other forms. We are interested in its common characteristics and in depicting its various types. We are interested again not only in this crowd or in that crowd, not merely in the description of a particular crowd at a particular time. The Sociologists here seeks to understand the crowd as a certain kind of complex social relations to contrast, say the way men behave in crowds from the way they behave in other kinds of groups. By nature human always desire to live in society and follows the rules and regulations of the state. If a person is left alone to live in a dense and dreadful forest, he/she will certainly feel extremely fed up with it and often sometime would certainly desire to be in the company of his fellow beings.

The present article focuses on impulse foundation for the communities at large and is another part of community based disaster management. ‘Community’ is a term we apply to a pioneer settlement, a village, a city, a tribe or a nation. Wherever the members of any group either miniature or a large form exist mutually in such a way that they share the basic conditions of common life, we call that a group of community. The work of a community is that life may be lived wholly within it. One can not live entirely within a business organization or a church; one can only live within a tribe or a city. The basic criterion of community, then, is that all of one’s social relationships may be found within it. There are communities, who are all inclusive and independent of others. Among primitive peoples, we sometimes find communities of no more than a hundred persons, as for example, among the yursk tribes of California, which are almost or together isolated. But modern communities and very large ones are much less self-contained. It’s rather economics and increasingly so, political interdependence, which is a major trait of our great modern communities.

A clear look into the theme would provide more details and the behavior they tend to take in retaliation to a natural calamity. We may live in a metropolis and yet be members of a very small community because our interests are circumscribed within a narrow area. Or we may live in a village and yet belong to a community as wide as the whole area of our civilization or wider. No civilized community has walls around it to cut it completely off the larger one, whatever ‘iron curtains’ may be drawn by the rulers of this nation or that.

Hence, if we take that a community is an area of social living marked by some degree of social coherence, then the next point of communication strategy becomes much easier.

Let’s now examine as to how this communication could help to built impulses for disaster reduction, risks and promote reconciliation before, during and after disaster and conflict through the process of change in behavior within the communities. It specially tries to focus on the core area between a pre-disaster and post-disaster management. It is true that media fail just where they should be strongest, that is, at reaching large number of people quickly and cheaply, where alterative means of contact are not immediately possible. However it is seen that radio broadcasts alone, when professionally produced over a long period of time, can change the way people behave and thus in turn influence the community.

Hence all together a new scheme could be taken up, so that we are able to boost the basic instincts of an individual based on the trained reflexes, which could save a human from the clasp of a natural disaster (critical time 30-40 seconds).

It may be termed as ‘Project Impulse Foundation’.

When an emergency is sounded, most of us happen to be nervous and there is obviously a change in our behaviour. There is also a change in relations within a community, since the matter affects all of us within.Slowly, when the emergency takes a shape of a Natural catastrophe, it’s that 30-40 seconds of ones basic instinct which either saves us or leads to death.

Forget Science and other known attributes, its just BASIC INSTINCTS as what exactly we do out of our own sudden thought, which helps us to take some quick decisions.

It’s the impulse and the quick reflexes that make us do things, which we normally won’t do. These are where we need to stress more and it could be done through a simple yet very powerful tool called ‘Impulse Foundation’. The idea takes its strength after identification of an opportunity for a new form of emergency management from the school of theaters and dramas.

The origin of the theater goes back to times beyond recorded history. Twenty five thousand years ago, two thousand years before Shakespeare, western theater was born in Athens, Greece. Between 600 and 200 BC the ancient Athenians created a theatre culture whose form, technique and terminology have lasted two millennia and they created plays that are still considered among the greatest works of world drama. Their achievements was very remarkable if one considers that there have been only two other periods in the history of theatre that could be said to approach the greatness of ancient Athens – Elizabethan England and perhaps the twentieth century.

Theatre has affected social science in many ways. One of the major attributes of the theatre is emergency management. In essence theatre or drama is not just about entertainment but have a strong social message associated with it, which directly and indirectly affects our life. We can channelize the enormous power of this soft part for increasing the impulse growth of the target audiences, not only within a large community, but also in communities far more urban or rural background and get access into their culture to blend the theories of emergency management into their life. This saves lives. This is the essence of ‘IMPULSE FOUNDATION’.

But for that we need to understand the communities and its sentiment as nowadays we find, what never existed in primitive societies, people occupying specific local areas which lack the social coherence necessary to give them a community character. For example the residents of a ward or district of a large city may lack sufficient contacts or common interests to instill conscious identification with the area. Such a ‘neighborhood’ is not a community because it doesn’t posses a feeling of belonging together – it lacks community sentiment.

The Project speaks of a concept of one world. This is our target, where the communication can speak its own strategies and opens its marvelous dramas on emergencies for the people of the world.

Today as we look forward to high definition television bringing satellite – transmitted pictures from around the globe, we sometimes dismiss radio as merely a quaint prologue to the present. Radio was and is more than that. It defined the twentieth century as much as the automobile. The first modern mass medium radio made America into a land of listeners, entertaining and educating, angering and delighting and joining every age and class into a common culture. The various entertainers in the thirties and forties – the ‘golden age’ of broadcasting – captured the imagination of millions. People talked them as much about the schemes of Amos and the Kingfish or the visitors to Fibber Mc Gee and Molly as they talk today about Murphy Browns new baby or the blast video footage on the TV News. Radio created national crazes across America, taught Americans new wage to talk and think and sold them products they never know they needed.

Radio brought them the world.

It was a new medium of radio at that time was to the printing press, what the telephone had been to the letter: It enabled listeners to experience an event as it happened. Radio which knows no geographic boundaries draw people together as never before. Sooner or later people wanted more of everything – music, talk, advice, drama. Radio meant that for the first time in history one person with a microphone could speak to many, influence them and perhaps change their lives. The concept borrowed the metaphor from a farmer scattering seeds across a field.

Now a single speaker could seed information, propaganda, entertainment, political and religious fervor, culture and even hatred across the world. The farmers phrase the word that changed the nation was broadcasting. It was the twenties, when we find that use of radios are slowly fading it out and the old dramas are becoming our memories but Radios has again emerged as the most necessary gadget coupled with the power of dramas and theaters with a new mission to reach remote places and save the world from disasters. This is the basis of project Impulsive Foundation.

It was in the mid eighties that broadcasters were faced with a set of opportunities as well as difficulties, in developing ‘socially useful’ radio programmes, designed to have an intended outcomes. In Afghanistan, where the war have left lives turned upside down, most schools and healthy centers had been destroyed, and they had to face the hazards post my millions of anti-personnel mines scattered from aircraft and farmers are facing newer challenges in cultivating crops and keeping animals alive. It was BBC along with Radio Afghanistan who was addressing those needs through their innovative dramas, which the locals were interested, although there were problems for effective social communication. But apart from the challenges, success always came in.

There were lots of pre-testing tests which was conducted prior to broadcast and people were able to identify the key messages that arose out of the programme. During later evaluations, the drama in which this analogy featured was the second most recalled programme. That project after following feedback from listeners and two local health services, it was established that radio was the primary source of information. It was this search for common ground that another International Non-Governmental Organization who specializes in using media to help populations in conflict and the post-conflict areas in Sierra Leone, Talking Drum Studio (TDS), undertook a number of activities to “strengthen communities to participate in building a tolerant, inclusive society for sustainable peace.” These activities included helping the local people and its production and creating good working relationships with the community, chiefs, army and police.

These had left with wonderful feedbacks from the war ravaged country of Sierra Leone. The people were quick to learn and remember facts from radio programmes. There were increase in knowledge and that the key information was the radio dramas. The fact which is to be seen is whether the same would apply to disaster prone areas as well. It is observed that people with access to radios do respond to ‘solutions-oriented’ entertainment programmes, particularly those broadcast in their local languages, which reflect their lives and with which they can identify.

It’s these programmes which can significantly affect our impulses or reflexes towards disaster management. The only factors that should be kept in mind are:

a) Dramas should be focused as well as entertaining

b) Programmes should be made after proper research for the target communities

c) Encourage local participation and find out innovative ways to involve local people

d) Programmes to achieve long term objectives

e) Programmes to also focus on success stories on other parts of the globe

f) Dramas to focus on vulnerable children and women

The project can definitely help the people to use their impulses/reflexes to save themselves from the grasp of a natural calamity in that crucial 30-40 seconds and would be a step towards creation of a Safer World for us as well as for our future generations.

Thanks a lot for reading.

Please send your feedback in the e-mail address given below.
Thanks and Regards,
Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

DISASTER MANAGEMENT

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September 11 attacks or the spread of Anthrax or the rising fear of a Nuclear Disaster, the emergence of the term Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Disaster (CBRN) is becoming a challenging issue infront of Governments of the World. Central to such preparation and response planning are the roles of districts, states, local -self Governments, National Government Departments, which includes activities ranging from global intelligence gathering to local emergency response. Beginning in the mid-1990s and accelerating rapidly since September 2001, all levels of Government have focused on improving their capabilities to foresee, intercept, prepare for and respond to these CBRN disasters.

Many Government Agencies, non-governmental organizations and individuals charged with emergency preparedness, response and management are being encouraged all over the World to intricate emergency Plans into training, education and public awareness campaigns. These days, Governments and Industries are enabling themselves to co-operate and find solutions to this blazing problem.

CBRN is an initiation for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear disaster. The term is used worldwide to refer to incidents or weapons in which any of these four hazards have presented them. In the fifties the expression ABC (Atomic, Biological and Chemical) was in use and was modified during the cold war to NBC (Nuclear, biological and chemical). Later the term R (radiological) was introduced as a consequence of the “new” threat radiological weapon (also known as the “poor man’s atomic bomb). CBRN agents are commonly referred as weapons of mass destruction. A wide range of these agents are available, but there are problems related to their manufacture, storage and disposal.

A CBR device functions by wind dispersal. During that instance the evacuation of people and control of ventilation turn out to be a main concern. The methods that are followed are prevention, detection, preparedness and response. Justifiably in order to protect the populace from any eventualities of CBRN attacks, there is a requirement of co-ordination between various Government agencies, Industries, Non-governmental organizations and departments like transport, home, environment, health etc, which would work in close cooperation as an assistance provider to the civilian authorities. There are two main issues, which in the intervening time have increased the risk of CBRN viz. trafficking and dual-use nature of CBRN materials. Hence there is a need for a number of national and multilateral legal instruments to come forward to stop the access of CBRN materials as pillars of prevention and agree to a uniform policy package on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) security. The world needs to have all necessary tools at hand to counteract this menace and spread awareness about the grave nature of CBRN threat. There is a requirement for discussion on these issues with proper documents prepared and adopted by various institutions as well as the National Government to present the Indian endeavor to address risks of CBRN disaster.

Chemical, Biological and Nuclear emergencies having potential of becoming a disaster may occur due to accidental spill, terrorism activities as well as use of chemical and nuclear warfare agents. It is difficult to predict when such activities will occur or whether the target will be military or a civilian unit. It has been observed in past that it occurred when it was least expected. In some countries the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has been identified as the nodal agency in the country in respect of human made radiological emergencies in the public domain. For example, a Crisis Management Group (CMG) has been functioning since 1987 in DAE, India. In the event of any radiological or nuclear emergency in the public domain, the CMG is immediately activated and will co-ordinate between the local authority in the affected area and the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC). The CMG comprises of senior officials drawn from various units of DAE like the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Heavy Water Board (HWB) and the Directorate of Purchase and Stores (DP&S). It also includes senior officials from the regulatory authority and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).

In general chemical and biological agents are considered to be cheaper and easier to produce. Radioactive materials that could be used for such contamination are available from a wide range of relatively non-secure facilities, including hospitals, medical and research laboratories, universities, waste dumps and so forth. The use of biological weapons become more eminent as apart from the natural transnational movement of these pathogenic organisms, their potential use as biological warfare and bio-terrorism has become far more important now than ever before. Small Pox and Anthrax are the most common agents and has the ability to cause widespread calamity. These types of incidents trigger human panic. These biological agents mainly bacteria, virus, toxins, fungi are living organisms and their toxic products can kill or incapacitate people, livestock and plants. These agents can be dispersed by spraying them into air, infecting animals that carry disease to humans and by contaminating food and water. Potentially hundreds of human pathogens could be used as weapons; however public health authorities have identified only a few as having the potential to cause causalities leading to civil disruptions.

The United Nations had closely been associated with CBRN disasters through its different programmes and specialized agencies. It was acknowledged later that there was a need to tackle the consequences of nuclear and biological related disasters, which has spurred the development of wide ranging international co-operation in science, humanitarian assistance and technology. National Disaster Management Authority, Government of India have proactively taken steps in the direction of institutionalization of the framework for “all hazard” emergency response in disasters culminated into the formulation of the National Guidelines on Medical Preparedness and Mass Causality Management, Nuclear and Radiological Disaster Management, Chemical Disaster Management etc. World Health Organization has been associated with Medical, Biological and Radiological Disasters for long. It was in the year 1989 WHO first raised concerns that local medical scientists had incorrectly attributed various biological and health effects to radiation exposure during the Chernobyl incident. Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) has been spreading awareness about Nuclear Disasters for long and one example is at Jitapur, Maharashtra, India where this public sector enterprise is actively working to set up a nuclear plant keeping all concerns into account & carefully finding the mitigation strategies. In Fiscal year 2009, USAID and Office of U.S Foreign Disaster Assistance responded to 63 disasters in 49 countries to assist nearly 55 million disaster-affected people. In Africa, OFDA disaster responses included assistance to populations affected by complex emergencies, food insecurity, ammunitions explosion, cholera and measles outbreaks.

There are new CBRN detection tools which will help us to use our ability to employ adequate detection methods, use modern and effective decontamination technologies and equipment, deal efficiently with decontamination wastes and do all of these in a safe manner. It’s a challenge for the Research Teams to come up with more innovative solutions to better equip and protect the community from these types of disaster.

Hence solutions need to be found for response strategies at the personal levels to these types of attacks or accidents. Though it needs some effort but a small step to aware and to empower ourselves with knowledge about disasters and its management could give us more days to live life and make a safer world for us as well as for the future generations.

Thanks and Regards,

Mainak Majumdar

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/