GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE – AN ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS AND NEED FOR DISASTER MANAGEMENT

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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. Towns are experiencing warmer weather, hotter summers and delayed winters. Even, we can expect much greater changes in the decades ahead. This in addition to the increase of population 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 city or town, which needs to survive this trouble times. Today, what Nature has given us for free is bought at a cost by humans due to depleting resources. 15 years back most of the people never thought of buying mineral water. They do now as fresh clean water is reducing these days with lots of added problems. Now agitations and war like scenario occurs only to get clean drinking water. Days are not far when we need to buy oxygen cylinders to breathe!

What seems now is feasible to implement policies which are already made giving importance to disaster management plans with innovations. 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 may increase by another 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 approximately (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. Hence 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

This leads to issues with environmental sustainability and thus is a reason to environmental catastrophe. 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.

Hence the vision of the policy makers needs 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 intervention addresses these issue and policies made accordingly.

Coming back to the fresh water crisis and 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.

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 and 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.

Some solutions to these environmental problems are:

  1. i) Cluster development: A cluster development of residential housing around village or town centers with each unit separated by broad green belts.
  2. 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 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 eliminated.

Hence a variety of methods need to be taken to tackle climate change and its consequences and those initiatives should:

  1. a) Help to reduce global warming and Green House Gas Effect
  2. b) Help to reduce energy and carbon-dioxide emissions
  3. d) Help to enhance bio-diversity of an area
  4. a) Encourage Rain Water Harvesting
  5. b) Managing storm water by slowing the runoff rate

These and many more planning & policies may help us to look deep into these environmental issues and find effective solutions to the problems through corporate social responsibility and working hand in hand with various agencies.

(Above are my personal opinion)

Mainak Majumdar

Writer is winner of Two Gold Medals in Master of Environmental Sciences from Bangalore University and is currently working in this area of Disaster Management and Environment for over 13 years

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NEED FOR RESPONSIBLE CARE: A GLOBAL INITIATIVE OF CHEMICAL INDUSTRIES

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Responsible Care (RC) is a safety movement, initiated in the year 1984 for chemical Industries sustainability. Responsible care is a voluntary code of conduct developed, enforced and monitored by the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA), United States of America. Before its initiation, it was a voluntary code which could be discussed and analysed by non-profit groups, industry associations and individual planners. Responsible care, was initially started in Canada in the year 1985 to address public concerns about the manufacturer’s distribution and use of chemicals. It is all about Chemical Industries commitment to continuous improvement in the environment, health and safety performance of chemical produce, all around the globe. A huge number of chemical associations and more than 52 Nations follow this basic rules of responsible care.
Responsible Care goes beyond legislative and regulatory compliances by adopting Cooperative and voluntary initiatives with local, regional and national Government and stakeholders. RC is more about commitment that seeks to build confidence and trust in a chemical industry and is essential to improve standards and quality of life. It helps to reduce the harmful emissions in an chemical industry and also lessen the number of chemical accidents. It also helps in the reduction of accidents by transportation of hazardous chemicals, which in long term, benefit the consumers, community and stakeholders.
It was way back when Chemical Manufacturers Associations (CMA) the oldest trade and industry Association in the United States founded in the year 1872, took a decision by the formation of 15 sulfuric acid manufacturers, joining together to develop common policies on the safe transportation of their product after the Bhopal Gas tragedy and a series of major chemical accidents reinforced an old perception among the masses and the stakeholders that a chemical industry can not conduct its operation without harming human health and damaging the environment. As a result, citizens group, non governmental organisations, legislatives demanded stringent regulated interventions. It was during those crucial times, the future of chemical industry was not looking so great. It was way back in 1983 CMA developed a set of principles to be followed by a chemical industry and the ways by which the industry should conduct business and relate to stakeholders. In the year 1985, public accountability office activities was introduced and CMA proposed a voluntary program called Community Awareness and Emergency Response. Eventually community awareness and emergency response became one of the six codes of responsible care. Later CMA formed the public perception committee composed of top industry executives. In the days that followed, public perception committee recommended CMA to launch Responsible Care. Responsible care is CMAs program initiative for improving the industries image and performance in the areas of environment health and safety. This initiative was launched in Canada in the year 1985 and later it was introduced in United States in the year 1988.
The International Council of Chemical Associations through Responsible Care continue to undertake actions consistent with the environmental principles of the United Nations Global compact. Responsible Care is governed by a Charter and following are the elements of the Global charter.
1. Adept Global responsible care core principles
2. Implement fundamental features of national responsible care programs
3. Commit to advancing sustainable development
4. Continuously improve and report performance
5. Enhance the management of chemical products worldwide – product stewardship
6. Champion and facilitate the extension of responsible Care along the chemical Industries value chain
7. Actively support National and local responsible care governance process
8. Address stakeholder Expectations about chemical industry activities and products
9. Provide appropriate resources to effectively implement responsible care

Responsible care charter was initially launched in the year 2006 and the motive was the extension of the process of continuous improvement beyond chemical manufacturing to other activities especially those associated with the safe use and handling of products along the value chain. Responsible care is an attempt by the chemical industry to regain public trust by demonstrating that chemical firms are responsible citizens who can self regulate (Mullins, 1994). It is a wonderful initiative to do business as well as serve the society and environment.

(Views Expressed Above Are Personal and based on Personal Research into the subject and References)
Writer :
Mainak Majumdar
Government Affairs, Disaster Management, Policy Specialist

Website:   http://www.theideas.in 

References:
1. Rc_Globalcharter2006 [1]
2. cefic.org/responsiblecare/
3. wikipedia.org/wiki/responsible_care
4. Sage Journal, Responsible Care: An Assessment, June 1, 2000

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/

Psychological Support In Disaster Management

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Disasters can happen anytime and at anyplace. Natural disasters are so frequent that one generally attributes it to fate. Sometimes the destructive forces of Nature become so strong that all our plans and policies fall like cards. We become helpless infront of the mighty Nature. When everything comes to an end, wherever one looks, the sight of the helpless victims fills our eyes. Children’s become orphans. Husbands lose their wives and vice-versa. The scenes are extremely painful. Lots of money in the form of grants flows for reconstruction. The obvious question that comes to ones mind is:

Is monetary help really meets their needs?

The answer will be in negative. Scenes horrendous in nature, fear, trauma and stress do engulf them. They are living dead.

The only solution to the problem is Psychological Support. In many projects a good psychological support program misses.

We have to explore those and that’s what humanity is all about.

Psychological support has become an important component of the disaster preparation and response repertoire. This occurred in the background of the need to understand mechanisms for the reduction of hazards related to disasters. The United Nations International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), 1990-99, was dedicated to promoting solutions to reduce risks from natural hazards (ISDR 2002). But it’s not always Natural Disasters that happens and leaves a scar in the minds of the people. It’s also man-made situations or accidents, which do lead to devastations. Now, it is recognized that riots, industrial accidents, acts of terrorism, internal displacement and insurgency are also roots cause for Psychological Trauma for the people. Though, these types of support are being carried out by different organizations, yet we have to do more. We need an effective trauma management throughout the World. Trauma includes major injury of all types — disasters, auto accidents, falls, industrial accidents, burns, shootings etc. Serious trauma is the leading killer of humans. Millions across the World are disabled and some permanently. If we look through the doors of history, we will find that by middle of 1970s, the growth and development of mental hospitals was the main approach for the provision of mental health services.

In India, several disasters took place. Among them is Bangalore circus tragedy (1981). It was a major disaster and the lessons learned were ‘High Emotional Stress and morbidity by survivors not addressed by health personnel’.

Bhopal Gas Leak disaster: (December 1984) where, physicians and other health personnel’s were not prepared to offer psychological support to the victims. Even till today, the horrible memories haunt them.

Orissa Cyclone was another example. Left over 10,000 dead. Approximately 15 million affected and displaced. Initial and two year surveys show high emotional stress present among survivors.

The Gujarat earthquake was another example. Over 20,000 people dead in acute phase and 100,000 with severe disabilities. Good health care, with no psychological support when many needed emotional care is the root cause of creation of secondary disasters.

Many lessons were learned but still remains a serious issue less addressed. When we talk of improved technologies; use of GIS and Remote Sensing, mitigation policies, construction and renovation, we seldom talk of this soft part of humanity, which makes us a Human. The response to any type of crisis should also include Psychological First Aid, Crisis Intervention, Defusing, Education and solution-focused counseling. Psychological support then must be framed within the existing and accepted methodologies of the continuum of disasters. Different types of trauma may affect the victims. There are different ways in which the response may affect the survivors.

These include:

i) Major elements of loss

ii) Exposure to bodies

iii) Degradation and Humiliation in cases of trauma motivated by racial or religious reasons

iv) Forced separation and relocation.

Depending upon the types of disasters, the survivor may assume different types of emotional roles:

i) The survivor assumes the role of victim and responds as victimized.

ii) The survivor assumes the role of victor and responds to the event in an active way that will foster problem-solving skills and learning and will make the person resilient after the event.

Now if we take the second point and move forward, we could surely able to make experts who have not only faced the crisis but also channel their experience towards better Psychological Support. The Psychological support program does not perceive the survivors as passive actors during an emergency or a disaster, but relies on the resourcefulness of the survivor and the capacity of individuals and communities to become resilient.

So, the ways to move forward are:

i) Pre-disaster Management:

Design and implement psychological first- aid training

ii) During the disaster: People’s response based on previous knowledge and level of coping

iii) Post Disaster: Assessment and treatment of Psychological Symptoms

iv) End Result: Reduce responses of distress and negative behavioral changes McFarlane (1995), who studied the relationship between training and preparation to post-disaster said that education about possible disaster experiences and how to deal with them, training through simulations and awareness of likely psychological reactions in both responders and survivors are very helpful. In general, the professional community would benefit from focusing on psychological support before, during and after a disaster.

Community people react differently before a disaster and after a disaster.

Pre-Disaster :

This is a period, when a community reacts in various ways. Members of the community may be anxious when a disaster is imminent, especially if they have not experienced one before and they may not respond adequately to the event. When a disaster cannot be predicted; let’s take the example of earthquakes or a volcanic eruptions, the community may become anxious and over-respond to the event, which may be detrimental to their well being. The common sources of anxiety include the threat to ones own life and the safety and well being of others, such as partners or children.

During a Disaster:

The impact of a disaster varies according to the type of disaster and the amount of warning that the survivors have had prior to the event. The roles of each variable affecting the survivors will predicate the emotional response. For example, threat, exposure, loss and dislocation will be determinants of a survivor’s patterns of adjustment. A person’s actions are geared to protection of the self and others, especially children, family members and those who are weak and helpless.

Here comes the effects of “altruism”, which is frequent and people will place their lives at risk to help others. Some people experience “shock”, especially when the disaster is unexpected, which adds their feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. Another common response is to be disorganized or stunned and people may not be able to respond appropriately to protect themselves and their families. Such disorganized behavior may extend in the post-disaster phase and so one may find people wandering aimlessly in the devastation. This reaction may reflect distortions in responses to severe disaster stressors and may indicate a level of dissociation. After a disaster, any people face complications.

The most important among them are:

a) Emotional reactions in the form of somatic complaints such as sleep disturbance

b) Indigestion

c) Fatigue

d) Social effects

e) Relationship or work difficulties

So, all these state the importance of psychological care in the case of disaster management. Psychological care is always required in such types of incidents. As (Garmezy, 1983) states that the ‘role of psychological care is to foster individual and community resilience. Individual resilience applies to the capacity to recover from a negative experience with renewed enthusiasm and an increased capacity to respond positively to a subsequent stressful event. The communities should be well trained so that a resilient community takes action to enhance the personal and collective capacity of its citizens and institutions to respond to, and influence the course of social and economic change.

Some factors which can help in positive outcomes are:

a) Recognizing and reinforcing people’s strengths

b) Providing clear and accurate information and education

c) Reinforcing supportive networks

d) Supporting and developing community strengths and process

Apart from these the Psychological Team should be able to give:

• Give practical assistance, information and emotional support.

• Respect traditional beliefs and customs and accommodate the family’s needs as far as possible.

• Provide counseling for the woman/family and allow for reflection on the event.

• Explain the problem to help reduce anxiety and guilt. Many women/families blame themselves for what has happened.

• Listen and express understanding and acceptance of the woman’s feelings. Nonverbal communication may speak louder than words: a squeeze of the hand or a look of concern can say an enormous amount.

• Repeat information several times and give written information, if possible. People experiencing an emergency will not remember much of what is said to them.

• Health care providers may feel anger, guilt, sorrow, pain and frustration in the face of obstetric emergencies that may lead them to avoid the woman/family. Showing emotion is not a weakness.

• Remember to care for staff who themselves may experience guilt, grief, confusion and other emotions.

If these issues are given importance, we can move one step ahead in creation of a Safer, Stronger, Greener and a Disaster Free World for us as well as for our future generations.

Thanks and Regards,

Mr. Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

DISASTER MANAGEMENT WITH BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION

Lets Conserve our Ecosytem
Lets Conserve our Ecosytem

Biodiversity refers to the variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic eco-systems and the ecological complexes of which they are part. This includes diversity within species (genetic diversity), between species and of ecosystems. Through out the world; it is known that Tropical forest systems are the most species rich environments. Although they cover less than 10 percent of world’s surface, they may contain 90 percent of the world’s species. The most species rich areas are the coral reefs. Biological diversity – or biodiversity – is the term given to the variety of life on Earth and the natural patterns it forms. The biodiversity we see today is the fruit of billions of years of evolution, shaped by natural processes and, increasingly, by the influence of humans. It forms the web of life of which we are an integral part and upon which we so fully depend.


This diversity is often understood in terms of the wide variety of plants, animals and microorganisms. So far, about 1.75 million species have been identified, mostly small creatures such as insects. Scientists reckon that there are actually about 13 million species, though estimates range from 3 to 100 million. Biodiversity also includes genetic differences within each species – for example, between varieties of crops and breeds of livestock. Chromosomes, genes, and DNA-the building blocks of life-determine the uniqueness of each individual and each species. Yet another aspect of biodiversity is the variety of ecosystems such as those that occur in deserts, forests, wetlands, mountains, lakes, rivers, and agricultural landscapes. In each ecosystem, living creatures, including humans, form a community, interacting with one another and with the air, water, and soil around them. It is the combination of life forms and their interactions with each other and with the rest of the environment that has made Earth a uniquely habitable place for humans. Biodiversity provides a large number of goods and services that sustain our lives. Around 1.75 million species have been named by taxonomists to date (UNEP-WCMC 2000: United Nations Environmental Program and World Conservation Monitoring Center). The total number of species has recently been estimated as 14 million throughout the world and according to “Animal” (World Book Encyclopedia. 16 vols. Chicago: World Book, 2003) there are about 50 million species throughout the world. These living organisms do contribute to a wide variety of environmental services, such as regulation of gaseous composition of the atmosphere, protection of coastal zones, regulation of hydrological cycle and climate, generation and conservation of fertile soils, dispersal and breakdown of wastes, pollination of many crops and absorption of pollutants. The most interesting thing is that many of these services by macro as well as micro organisms are not widely accepted and neither widely recognized nor properly valued in economic terms throughout the world. However, the combined economic value of ecosystem services has recently been estimated in the range of US$16-54 Trillion per year and mounting. The important fact lies that human health and well being are directly dependent on bio-diversity. Any changes to that bring an imbalance in the Natural Eco-system and bring a Disaster. We try to explore nature for our development; which is our need and Nature needs to sustain itself for its survival; in turn for our survival. Whenever this imbalance reaches its limit; a natural disaster occurs. The importance of biodiversity also lies in the fact that 10 of the world’s 25 Top selling drugs for medicinal purposes were derived from natural sources. The global market value of pharmaceuticals derived from genetic resources is estimated at US$75,000-1,50,000 million annually. Some 75 percent of the world’s population relies on health care on traditional medicines, which are derived directly from natural sources (UNDP, UNEP, WORLD BANK and WRI 2000). Not only that, biodiversity also provides genetic resources for food and agriculture, and therefore constitutes the biological basis for world food security and support for human livelihoods. But for various reasons; throughout the world, Global biodiversity is changing at a unprecedented rate; the most important drivers of this change being land conversion, climate change, pollution, unsustainable harvesting of natural resources and the introduction of exotic species. The relative importance of these drivers differs between eco-systems. For example land conversion is most intensive in tropical forests and less intensive in temperate, boreal and arctic regions; atmospheric nitrogen deposition is largest in northern temperate areas close to cities; introduction of exotic species is related to patterns of human activity – those areas remote from human intervention generally receive fewer introduced species. The ultimate causes of biodiversity loss are human population growth together with unsustainable patterns of consumption, increasing production of waste and pollutants, urban development, internal conflict and continuing inequities in the distribution of wealth and resources. The most significant response to the crisis of biodiversity during the past 35 years has been the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which entered into force on 1993.

The convention has 3 main goals to achieve. Signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the Convention on Biological Diversity is dedicated to promoting sustainable development. Conceived as a practical tool for translating the principles of Agenda 21 into reality, the Convention recognizes that biological diversity is about more than plants, animals and micro organisms and their ecosystems – it is about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live. It had been signed by around 182 Parties by December 2001.

Thus as an international treaty identifies a common problem, sets overall goals and policies and general obligations, and organizes technical and financial cooperation. However, the responsibility for achieving its goals rests largely with the countries and the people themselves.

The impact of climate change on biodiversity to date is still unclear. The increasing incidence of coral reef bleaching may be a consequence of recent rises in global ocean temperature. Reports of coral bleaching have increased greatly since 1989, with all records of mass bleaching occurring after this date. The most significant mass bleaching was associated with the 1997-1998 ENSO Event, when all ten reef provinces of the world were affected. In some areas, most notably the Indian Ocean, this event was followed by mass mortality, where upto 90 percent of the corals died over thousands of square kilometers.

BIODIVERSITY INDIA

India is very rich in biodiversity. The most important regions being the

  • Himalayas
  • Chilka Lake
  • Sunderbans
  • Western Ghats
  • Thar Desert
  • Andaman and Nicober Islands

India has a rich and varied heritage of biodiversity, encompassing a wide spectrum of habitats from tropical rainforests to alpine vegetation and from temperate forests to coastal wetlands. India figured with two hotspots – the Western Ghats and the Eastern Himalayas – in an identification of 18 biodiversity hotspots carried out in the eighties (Myers. 1988). Recently, Norman Myers and a team of scientists have brought out an updated list of 25 hotspots (Myers et. al. 2000). In the revised classification, the 2 hotspots that extend into India are The Western Ghats /Sri Lanka and the Indo-Burma region (covering the Eastern Himalayas); and they are included amongst the top eight most important hotspots. In addition, India has 26 recognized endemic centers that are home to nearly a third of all the flowering plants identified and described to date. Of the estimated 5–50 million species of the world’s biota, only 1.7 million have been described to date (Groombridge, and Jenkins. 2000), and the distribution is highly uneven. About seven per cent of the world’s total land area is home to half of the world’s species, with the tropics alone accounting for 5 million. India contributes significantly to this latitudinal biodiversity trend. With a mere 2.4% of the world’s area, India accounts for 7.31% of the global faunal total with a faunal species count of 89,451 species (MoEF. 1999). Some salient features of India’s biodiversity have been mentioned below.India has ten biogeographic regions including the Trans-Himalayan, the Himalayan, the Indian desert, the semi-arid zone(s), the Western Ghats, the Deccan Peninsula, the Gangetic Plain, North-East India, and the islands and coasts (Rodgers and Panwar. 1988). India is one of the 12 centers of origin of cultivated plants.

India has 5 world heritage sites, 12 biosphere reserves, and 6 Ramsar wetlands. Amongst the protected areas, India has 88 national parks and 490 sanctuaries covering an area of 1.53 lakh sq. km.The endemism of Indian biodiversity is high. About 33% of the country’s recorded flora are endemic to the country and are concentrated mainly in the North-East, Western Ghats, North-West Himalaya and the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Of the 49,219 plant species, 5150 are endemic and distributed into 141 genera under 47 families corresponding to about 30% of the world’s recorded flora, which means 30% of the world’s recorded floras are endemic to India. Of these endemic species, 3,500 are found in the Himalayas and adjoining regions and 1600 in the Western Ghats alone. About 62% of the known amphibian species are endemic with the majority occurring in the Western Ghats. Nearly 50% of the lizards of India are endemic with a high degree of endemicity in the Western Ghats. India is a centre of crop diversity – the homeland of 167 cultivated species and 320 wild relatives of crop plants.

India’s record in agro-biodiversity is equally impressive. There are 167 crop species and wild relatives. India is considered to be the center of origin of 30,000-50,000 varieties of rice, pigeon-pea, mango, turmeric, ginger, sugarcane, gooseberries etc and ranks seventh in terms of contribution to world agriculture.

Comparative statement of recorded number of plant species in India and the world

Taxa Species Percentage
of India to
the world
India World
Bacteria 850 4000 21.25%
Viruses Unknown 4000 _
Algae 6500 40000 16.25%
Fungi 14,500 72000 20.14%
Lichens 2000 17000 11.80%
Bryophyta 2850 16000 17.80%
Pteridophyta 1100 13000 8.46%
Gymnosperms 64 750 8.53 %

Source. MOEF 1999, Government of India

Biosphere reserves of India

Name of the site Date of notification Area in Sq. km Location (State)
Nilgiri 01.08.86 5,520 Parr of Wynad , Nagarhole, Bandipur and Madumalai, Nilambur, Silent Valley and Siruvani hills (Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka)
Nanda Devi 18.01.88 5,860.69 Par of Chamoli, Pithoragarh, Almora Districts (Uttaranchal)
Nokrerk 01.09.88 820 Part of Gora Hills (Meghalaya)
Manas 14.03.89 2,837 Part of Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Nalbari, Kamprup and Darang district (Assam)
Sunderbans 29.03.89 9,630 Part of delta of Ganga & Brahamaputra river system (West Bengal)
Gulf of Mannar 18.02.89 10,500 Indan part of Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka (Tamil Nadu)
Great Nicobar 06.01.89 885 Southern most islands of Andaman and Nicobar (A&N islands)
Similpal 21.06.94 4,374 Part of Mayurbhanj district (Orissa)
Dibru-Saikhowa 28.07.97 765 Part of Dibrugarh and Tinsukia district (Assam)
Dehang Debang 02.09.98 5,112 Part of Siang and Debang velley (Arunachal Pradesh)
Pachmarhi 03.03.99 4,926.28 Parts of Betul, Hoshangabad and Chindwara districts (Madhya Pradesh)
Kanchanjanga 07.02.00 2,619.92 Part of Kanchanjanga Hills (Sikkim)

Source: MOEF 2000, Government of India

India’s World heritage sites

Site Location
Kaziranga National Park Assam
Keoladeo Ghana National Park Rajasthan
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary Assam
Nanda Devi National Park Uttar Pradesh
Sundarban National Park West Bengal

Source: MOEF 1999, Government of India

Table: Threatened Animals of India by Status Category

Ex EW CR EN VU LR/cd LR/nt DD
0 0 18 54 143 10 99 31

Legend
Ex-extinct; EW-Extinct in the Wild; CR- Critically Endangered; VU-Vulnerable; LR/cd-Lower Risk conservation dependent; LR/nT- Lower Risk near threatened; DD-Data Deficient

Source: IUCN 2000Though assessment of the impact of policy responses to pressures on biodiversity is limited by the lack of a comprehensive system for monitoring; for collating relevant data and for presenting information in a consistent manner. In general, it is accepted that biodiversity continues to decline. Most examples of successful conservation action are those where particular attention and considerable financial resources have been focused on individual species or localized areas. Many threats to biodiversity such as habitat loss and invasion by introduced species continue to intensify. In addition, new threats may be emerging , such as climate change and bio-invasion (It is the influx of alien species. These are considered invasive when they become established in natural habitats, are agents of change, and threaten native biological diversity. Alien invasive species include bacteria, viruses, fungi, insects, mollusks, plants, fish, mammals and birds :- IUCN 2001). So, loss of biodiversity in India as well as the world will definitely create an environmental problem and will be the cause of a Natural Disaster of greater magnitude. Deforestation due to various reasons, increase of pollutants leading to large amounts of toxic inputs in our environment; together with hazardous wastes of all kinds does make the matter more worse.

The purifying system of nature could not act against those huge toxic inputs of humankind.

The result is a disaster.

That’s the time; when we do see Flood in deserts; for example the border district of Barmer drowned under 577 mm of rainfall submerging 88 villages with an approximate population of about 20 lakh or just finding snow in Dubai and parts of Europe saw a blinding heat wave which killed many, especially the elderly, since they just don’t know how to cope with this unpredictable extremities.

Some of the policies, which can be taken into account for biodiversity conservation, are:

· Identifying and monitoring the important components of biological diversity that needs to be conserved and used sustainably.

· Establishing protected areas to conserve biological diversity while promoting environmentally sound development around these areas.

· Respecting, preserving and maintaining traditional knowledge of the sustainable use of biological diversity with the involvement of indigenous peoples and local communities.

· Educating people and raising awareness about the importance of biological diversity and the need to conserve it

· Promoting public participation, particularly when it comes to assessing the environmental impacts of development projects that threaten biological diversity and protecting the biodiversity hot spots from alien species.

Biodiversity conservation is an important step towards a successful disaster management and if policies are implemented to protect it, then we can get one step closer in making a Disaster Free World.

Thanks a lot for taking your time and reading the post. Please put a comment, if your time permits. Incase, there is any mistake in the data, it will be very kind of you, if you please let me know at my e-mail address.

– Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

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