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/

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DISASTER MANAGEMENT AND GREEN CITIES

Greener City
Green City

I thought of writing this small write-up since it has been going in my mind for last two years. I’m trying to express that thought through the following document.

Across the world, there is a rapid increase in urban living and an ever greater understanding of the consequences of Global Climate Change. Cities are 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 city, 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 Cities are no different.

Another challenging factor, which haunts an Indian city, 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 cities. 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 cities.

It’s stated that as per the established norms the green cover should be at least 15 percent for mega-cities 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 city 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 Cities faces many environmental challenges. Hence 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 risk, provide insulation and improve the appearance of the city.

Creation of Green Bus Shelters will not only increase the green cover. The mission would be to increase the green look of the city 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 city. 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. We need to have good projects all around the globe to address these issues and plan its mitigation policies. It’s then we can move towards a Safer World for us as well as for the future generations.

For any project to be successful, there is a need to create lot of awareness campaigns. The purpose of the campaign would be to help everyone learn how to make the city a better place to live, in both small and big ways.

Hope through these write-up, International Agencies, Government and Non-Government organizations take up these projects so that we can see a Greener and a Safer World.

Thanks a lot for reading. Please put a comment if your time permits.

Thanks and Regards,

Mainak Majumdar

Assistant Director (Disaster Management) in India’s Industry and Business organization at New Delhi

Specialist in Disaster Management and Environmental Sciences

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

VOLCANOES AND ITS DEVASTATION – ARE WE CLOSER TO 2012

Volcanoes, earthquakes & tsunami pose the most frightening hazards, which is able to eradicate the lives of thousand within seconds.  In this regard let me put across a few words from Antigone, by the Attic tragedian Sophocles (4967-406 B.C.), in the translation of Sir Richard Jebb, C.U.P., 1900 (Jakobsen, p. 57); Wonders are many, and none is more wonderful than man…. only against Death shall he call for aid in vain; but from baffling maladies he hath devised escape.

This year (2010) there were so many earthquakes that it is hardly a day, when we do not hear about it.  The occurrence as narrated and visualized in television tells a tale of destruction which still remains visible in the eyes of the beholder. The word ‘tsunami’ may be a much more recent acquisition to our vocabulary, attained as a result of 26 December 2004, when a submarine earthquake near Sumatra displaced the sea water into devastating series of waves – a tsunami – that claimed nearly 300,000 lives around the shores of the Indian Ocean.

These Volcanoes undeniably produce impressive landscapes and those of us who are fortunate enough to have witnessed such an erupting volcano will carry to our graves indelible memories of an erupting volcano, the spectacle, the noise, the smell and the drama. But beauty has its worst side too.  To save one from these types of disasters purely lies on ones position. If you are in a wrong place at the wrong time, you may not be able to save yourself. For other people, whose lives, health, homes and livelihoods are being destroyed or put at risk by an eruption – any sense of scientific curiosity is understandably displaced by more pressing personal concerns.

Generally it is often seen that eruptions are always associated with small earthquakes and that in some circumstances the eruption of a volcano is the cause of a small scale tsunami. Everything in this world is related. One cannot mitigate one parameter, without understanding the other’s ecological links. Mitigation can only be done, when we understand the ecology and its biodiversity outlooks and hence require specialists from various fields to come together and act. Natural Catastrophe Management may be the domain of trained civil defense people, but if one needs to mitigate the disasters and save billions of dollars of development from annihilation, one need to have effective understanding of Environment and our immediate surroundings – the things we do and things we should not do. It’s just not deforestation, it’s not about the construction of high rises buildings, it’s not about the exploitation of Mother Nature in the name of development but it’s about understanding the role of all these factors in context to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA, 5-10 years of human existence). That’s the importance of these EIA.

It was the eruption of Krakatau (popularly referred to as Krakatao) which caused the tsunami in 1883. In addition to generating an ocean-crossing tsunami, a volcanic eruption can teach up and pluck aircraft from the sky. Let’s glance into the reasons as why does a volcano happen.

Molten rock at a depth is known to geologists as magma. Depending on its composition, magma solidifies when its temperature drops below about 1200 – 800 degree centigrade. This type of solidified rocks formed by solidified magma is described as an igneous rock. The term ‘igneous’ is derived from the Latin word ‘ignis’meaning fire. Thus an igneous rock made by solidification inside the earth’s surface is described as intrusive and is said to form an ‘igneous intrusion’. If the magma reaches the surface the resulting rock is called as volcanic.

When the molten rock reaches the surface it is generally called lava rather than the magma and if it flows in a stream across the surface, then this is described as a lava flow. Just to mention here that rocks of all types contain various minerals. When these rocks are in a molten state it is called Magma. These magmas may also have small crystals and bubbles of gas inside them. Magma will tend to rise upwards only if it is less dense than the solid rock that surrounds it. A close study reveals that the movement of the magma is restricted by its viscosity, which is a measure of how freely it is able to flow. One can compare and understand the amount of viscosity by taking the example of basalt (Common variety of magma, in fluid state) is about 100,000 times more viscous than water! This gives it the consistency of very thick porridge, so that it would not be able to escape up a narrow borehole.

The earth is composed of Core (Inner and Outer), Mantle (Lower and Upper) and the crust. The Inner core of the Earth is between 6370 Km to 5155 Km. The Outer Core is between 5155 Km to 2900 Km, the Lower Mantle is between 2900 Km to 670 Km, the Upper Mantle is between 670 Km to 90 Km/25 Km. The Crust is between 6-11 Km. Although the outer core’s chemical composition is uncertain, we can be sure that it is a liquid rather than a solid because of its effect on seismic waves. These are vibrations of various sorts emanating from earthquakes or underground explosions, which travel through the rock at speeds of several kilometers per second. The biggest earthquakes and the underground nuclear detonations generate seismic waves strong enough to pass right through the globe. When seismic waves encounter the outer core, those waves consisting of shearing vibrations (as inside a wobbling jelly), which is called the S waves, cannot travel through it and are either reflected or absorbed. This demonstrates that the outer core offers no resistance to shearing motions, and so must be liquid. Conversely, seismic waves that consist of alternating pulses of compression and dilation (like sound waves in air or water) called P Waves, can travel through it. There are other sorts of seismic waves that can travel only near the Earth’s surface.

Although the molten iron stew of the outer core has a surprisingly low viscosity (little more than that of water), it is much too dense to find its way up to the surface at volcanoes. However, it does make its presence felt at the surface through Earth’s magnetic field. This is a product of electrical currents in the outer core, which are generated because the molten material is in rapid circulation and is a good conductor of electricity. The core is surrounded by the mantle and overlying this mantle is the crust, which is relatively thin skin at the Earth’s Surface, accounting for less than 0.5 per cent of the Earth’s mass. The crust is richer in silicon and certain other elements than the mantle, so the varieties of silicate materials that are most common in the crust differ from those that characterize the mantle. However, the compositional difference between mantle and crust is trivial compared to the difference between mantle and core. There are two types of crust: one is the Oceanic Crust which is about 6-11 Km thick and mostly composed of basalt and constitutes the floor of deep oceans. Continental crust makes up the continents and floors of the shallow seas that are adjacent to most major land masses. It can be as thin as 25 Km where it has been thinned and stretched and as much as 90 Km thick below the highest mountain ranges where it has been buckled and compressed.

The elements which are mostly found in the earth’s crust are Silicon, Titanium, Aluminum, Iron, Magnesium, Calcium, Sodium, Potassium etc. Volcanoes generally occur where magma that has been generated at isolated patches in the mantle collects into sufficient volumes to be able to rise into the crust and make its way to the surface. The theory of plate tectonics describes the way in which the plates slide around and explains why most volcanoes occur where they do and the nature of the ground displacement during earthquakes. The Earth crust is firmly joined to the part of the mantle immediately beneath it. In most places, the top 100 Km or so of the mantle is just as strong and rigid as the crust, so that the crust and thus this uppermost mantle constitute a single mechanical layer. This layer is known as the lithosphere, a term chosen because it includes ‘lithos’, the Greek word for rock.

The lithosphere is rocky (in the familiar sense) in terms of both its composition and is strong and rigid nature. It ranges between 20 and 50 Km thick in the oceans and is typically about 150 Km thick under the continents. Each tectonic plate is a slab of lithosphere that can move around because the part of the mantle immediately beneath it is much weaker. This layer of the mantle is called the Asthenosphere(constructed from the Greek word for weak). The part, which is weak of the mantle, lies in few tens of Kilometers immediately below the base of the lithosphere, where there is evidence that a few percent of molten material may permeate along the interfaces between crystals. However, the proportion of this melt is so small that it is no more valid to think of this zone as molten or rather it is better to describe it as water-sodden brick as a liquid. However below the lithosphere there is an important change in the properties of the Earth’s rock that persists all the way to the core – although deep mantle is solid but it is not at rest. It is circulating at a speed of a few centimeters a year. However, that does not mean it is a liquid, certainly not so far as the transmission of seismic waves is concerned. The deep mantle’s slow flow is usually described as ‘solid-state convention’.

It’s this convention of current, what makes warm air to rise and cold air sink or water circulate in a saucepan (even before it boils). It is a way of transporting heat outwards. In the Earth’s solid mantle, convective forces cause it to circulate and thereby transfer the Earth’s internal heat outwards much more effectively than could be achieved simply by conduction through a motionless mantle. In fact, it is the efficiency of solid-state convention in the mantle that actually prevents the temperature getting quite hot enough to cause widespread melting. Put simply, hot mantle rises upwards & transfers its heat to the base of the lithosphere. Mantle that has lost heat in this way becomes slightly denser and sinks downwards again. Most of the heat deposited at the base of the lithosphere trickles through to the surface by conduction, but some is carried higher by pods of magma that can intrude high into the crust or even reach the surface at volcanoes. Often it is seen that most volcanoes occur independently of convection in the mantle and are a result of movements of the tectonic plates and these movements are possible only because only because the top of the Aesthenosphere is weak enough to allow them to happen. Volcanoes tend to be concentrated in well defined belts. These volcanoes during eruption also disturb the plate boundaries and are the cause of earthquakes and tsunami. A sudden change can be drastic and can eliminate thousands of human life.

According to computer models, somewhere near Toba, along the fault line there may be another super volcano getting ready for eruption. 3.1 mile sinking of Indo-Australian plate under the Euresian Plate in the last 74,000 years has created enough magma for a super volcano.

In the words of poet Stefanie Zammit,

‘Where distant screams haunt the nights,

And streets are filled with empty homes.

Where starving dogs are left to fight

Over lost men’s meat and children’s bones…

…When the smoke of burning men fills the air:

A smoke that no wind can fend.

When you take a breath and you declare:

This is when it really ends.’

Though these is just an assumption till now, but who knows when these volcanoes in well defined belts starts erupting and cause huge earthquakes all around the world to tell the final tale of human beings last annihilation story 2012.

(Please Note: Incase, there is any mistake in the above data, kindly feel free to mail me at the e-mail address given below)

Thanks and Regards,

MAINAK MAJUMDAR

Disaster Management Specialist and Writer

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

DISASTER MANAGEMENT AND RISKS

Risk Assessment is about identifying the potential hazards and risks associated with any substance, process or activity and determining ways to manage those hazards before the adverse effects become evident.

Risk Management takes a more multifaceted form if a system becomes more complex. This is what happened in Bhopal. It was in 2-3rd December, 1984; the World’s worst industrial disaster killed at least 20,000 people and left thousands maimed and helpless. The medical follow up done by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), based on diverse multi-institutional projects over a 10 year period between January 1984 and May 1994, on the communities that were exposed to the leak provides a reasonably comprehensive viewpoint on both short and long-term health effects. Epidemiological studies formed the core of the study that included 25 research projects, including two multi-disciplinary ones on pathology and toxicology to determine the effects of inhaling noxious gases. The investigations also included clinical and toxicological studies. The entire work was coordinated by the Bhopal Gas Disaster Research Centre (BGDRC).

An International Journal stated earlier that the findings of the study were not made public till 2004. It was of belief that about 42 tones of Methyl Isocyanate (and other gaseous products of the runaway reaction) were leaked from the storage tank in 1984. Approximately about three-fourths of the storage tank population at that time was exposed to the leak. Large part of the populations were affected to different degrees and when experts debated on the ways to find solution, people died like flies. A total number of approximately 80,000 people were studied at severely, moderately and mildly exposed areas and compared with controls from unexposed areas. Later it was found – of the total population, 3.9 percent was affected severely, 8.6 percent moderately and 50.1 percent mildly, while 37.4 percent was not affected. Most people included in the study had no fixed occupation or fixed source of income. Nearly 70 percent of the people, lived in Kuccha houses, in the severely affected as well as control areas (areas where the gas had not spread), and prevalence of the smoking habit ranged from 0.2 to 14.3 per cent.

If one goes through the ICMR report then one could come to a conclusion that the three-fourth of the deaths occurred within the first 72 hours of the leak, which happened around mid night of December 2-3, 1984. It was the post-exposure phases that is now considered as depending on the varying clinical features, the different post-exposure phases have been classified in the study as acute (first month of exposure), sub-acute (one to three months) and chronic (more than three months). The ocular symptoms during the acute period were related to the effects of the gas(es) on the eyes and the respiratory tract. In the acute phase, in addition to respiratory complaints, including chest pain and breathlessness, there were complaints of muscle weakness, febrile illness and vomiting. After examination of blood, it was found that in this phase there were increased white blood cells and higher than normal hemoglobin levels. Situations of these types of can be termed as EXTREME EVENTS, which is beyond the natural capacity of the individuals to cope.

If we look through the doors of history then one can find that risk and crisis management is lettered with narratives about the ways in which the organizations failed to deal with the demands of ‘extreme events’. Extreme events by definition are a class of outcome that have very high consequences (often exceeding the perceived worst class scenario) but also a low probability of occurrence. These factors make them difficult areas for analysis and investigations. These may lead some individuals to come to a conclusion by dismissing their significance by stating that they are not representative of the ‘normal’ state of affairs within the ‘system’ under consideration. Extreme events call into question our understanding of the various classes of phenomenon in which they are found and the strategies that organizations have in place to deal with them.

Thus they confront the secretarial claims and their control systems and can often call into question many of the fundamental assumptions that are held about the nature of hazard. These types of extreme events are also found in Natural Disasters or catastrophes or go-physical phenomenon, extreme weather conditions and also for long term phenomenons like global warming.

For example, a region receives a clear warning about heavy downfall and the same place receives enough rainfall in a 24 hour period (which is equivalent to months of precipitation in the given region) then the scale of the event will definitely surprise many people and will cause situations which may be difficult for the local population to cope. Again, a clear look states that it is often the scale of the events that present challenges around prediction. These leads to elementary complexity in the provision of mitigating advice to those, who are exposed to these type of risks. However there are attempts to provide early warning systems to warn the people against the upcoming disasters.

‘Extreme Events’ are typified by being both high consequence and low probability events. They are events that have the potential to overpower our resistance and yet they occur so uncommonly that we are powerless to develop enough experience from them and expand effective management control strategies that are grounded in the normal trial and error learning process that characterize organizations.

Extreme eventsare however also characterized by the various attempts to ‘manage’ them so that one can prevent the process of its escalation that has the power to move a system within its boundaries of its normal perturbation towards an extreme position, where it can no longer be controlled and has the potential to cause considerable levels of damage. Here we need to understand the consequences of an extreme event rather than seeking to search for developed technologies of prognosticating their occurrence.

If we understand the possible harm that such ‘extreme events’ can cause, it would lead the outcome administrators to reflect on the process by which incidents can shoot up to generate considerable damage and how inadequate our understanding base is, which often depend around these processes.

Some organizations consider the nature of their past histories as evidence that they are ‘crisis prepared’ or ‘resilient’. The lack of sufficient information and evidence about the exact understanding of the possible harm of a particular catastrophic hazard is often seen as a ‘justification’ that the organization is prepared for such crisis. But what if these crisis takes the shape of an extreme event. The coping capacity of such organizations is largely a function of the assumptions that exist around controls, which work under a range of conditions and to an extent that they are able to cope with the task demands that they are generated by emergence.

If we look into the details then one arrives at a conclusion that there are few handful of managers who have an ‘Hand on’ experience of ‘crisis’ not necessarily an extreme event and that would allow them to manage these events with their own past histories he/she had undergone. Therefore the organizations need to engage in simulation exercises in order to ensure that managers have some experience of dealing with those processes around which the hazard might escalate. It would help if the mangers are also willing to consider the experience of other organizations, which are having similar experiences around such types of events. As crises are in essence, extreme events, our understanding of them will be a function of the observations that we can make ‘at a distance’ rather than by direct experimental learning.

However, what these extreme events do is to point to the manner in which managerial assumptions around control can generate the conditions in which catastrophic failures can occur. As such, they serve an important role in allowing us to develop strategies for coping with the consequences of extreme events or crisis by considering the range of impacts that such events can generate.

My assumption goes that these factors stated above may be lacking for what happened in Bhopal Gas Disaster in 1984. A deep look into these aspects and significant research with proper implementation of policies in these areas can help organizations, corporate and other agencies to tackle ‘extreme events’ more professionally and effectively.

Please Note: Incase, there is any mistake in the above data, kindly feel free to mail me at the e-mail address given below.

Thanks and Regards,

Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY – A NECESSITY FOR EFFECTIVE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT

Emergency Management is a highly complex problem and has diverse manifestations. It’s a phenomenon which affects people in different ways and is the result of social, cultural, economic and political factors.  The links need to be found for analyzing a better Emergency Management. All crisis does not give rise to emergencies and the radical changes does not mean that it’s in negative. A Change may not necessary lead to the fulfillment of ones goal. 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 thinking as any changes for the vulnerable people or the communities may give rise to a crisis that may overpower their capacity to cope and is a call for 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 should aim to address these issues which are the standing parameters for a crisis and which leads to Disasters. It’s this inequity and poverty, which make people more vulnerable to the effects of Natural and Industrial Hazards. Environmental Degradation, which in itself is often poverty related may aggravate such hazards. It is a well known fact that Natural Resources are divided into two categories.  One is the renewable and the other is the 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” is helping to establish the fact in the minds of the general public that Human Beings is 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 Human Beings should 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’s we humans, who constrict them with levees and dams and then flush them with dredging, channelizations and floods and silt of bad farming.

These types of willingness may arise from three fallacies in thought. First each of these tampering is regarded as a separate project because it is carried out by disconnected projects by a separate bureau or profession, and as expertly executed because its proponents are trained, each in his own narrow field. The public does not know or understand that the bureaus may cancel one another and that expertness can cancel understanding. Second there is a notion that any materials built by constructed mechanism are better than the Natural ones. Third, we perceive organic behavior only in those organizations which we have built.

Its thus we human turn wise to tolerate a hasty type of tinkering and make radical amendment to our biotic constitution for our short term benefits. This can lead to a revolt of Ecology and can be rightly termed as ‘Ecological Backlashes’ or ‘Ecological boomerangs’. Thus it is right to define ecological backlash as an unforeseen detrimental consequences of an environmental modification which cancels out the projected gain or as is too often the case, actually creates more problems than it solves.


When it happens, it is a double tragedy since not only is the amount spent in remaking the landscape lost to bad investment but additional sums must then be spent to correct all the new problems created. Hence it is not possible for any independent agency to intervene in a strategic fashion without understanding the dynamics of change, to which there are many inter-related contributory factors, the most important are:

I} Environmental Degradation:

A)     Long Term processes producing patterns of vulnerability, such as environmental degradation.

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 however, everyone suffers when land is improperly used because everyone eventually pay 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 develop. 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 such factor which is of concern is: the soil conservation profession has tended to “sit on its laurels” and is failing to move with the times. For example, too much effort is now being devoted to creating more farmland by channelizing streams, draining marshes, swamps and so on, at great public expense when nothing is being done to save existing farmland from destruction by ill planned urban development. In general, soil conservation needs to go beyond its present rather exclusive farm range or forestry orientation to the consideration of the urban-rural landscape complex where the most pressing problems now exist.

One solution to these problems may be:

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 and 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. Although as little as one third of an acre can produce enough calories to sustain one person, the kind of quality diet we want – one that includes a lot of meat, fruit and leafy vegetables – requires about 1.5 acres per person (Odum).

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 must become so widely recognized that the present political confrontation that exits between the rural and urban populations is obliterated. Somehow, environmental sciences and natural disaster management must be merged.

B)      Contingent or proximate event producing reductions in resources or entitlements, such as a Natural Disaster viz drought

Here comes the concept of biotic communities. A biotic community is any assemblage of populations living in a prescribed area or physical habitat. It is an extent that it is has characteristics additional to its individual and population components and functions as a unit through coupled metabolic transformations. It is the living part of the eco-system as indicated in a statement.

Biotic Communities is and should remain a broad term which may be used to designate natural assemblages of various stages from the biota of a log to that of a vast forest or ocean.  Major communities are those which are of sufficient size and completeness of organization that they are relatively independent.

The community concept is important in the practice of ecology because it is seen that as the communities grows so is the growth of an organism. Thus often the best way to “control” a particular organism whether we wish to encourage or discourage it, is to modify the community, rather than to make a direct “attack” on the organism.  Let’s take an example; it is often observed that mosquitoes can often be controlled more efficiently and cheaply by modifying the entire aquatic community (it can be done by fluctuating the water level, for example) than by attempting to poison the organism. Lets take the example of “weeds” thrive under continual disturbance of the soil and the best way to control weeds along a road side, for example is to stop scarping and plowing up road shoulders and way sides and encourage the development of a stable vegetation in which the weeds can not compete.  Hence, human welfare similarly depends on the nature of the communities and ecosystems upon which HE/SHE superimposes his/her culture.

All these add to trauma of the residents, when there is a sudden Natural Disaster like Cyclones, Hurricanes, Earthquakes etc. Environmental Mitigation measures are the need of the hour.

II} 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.

Its here comes the concept of serving the poor profitability. These are the people who have great needs, but they can’t express their needs in a way which may matter to markets. Markets seem to avoid the needs as it doesn’t bring profit and hence poor always tends to remain poorer. It’s 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 World where there presence is left.

Even if there are many allegations to the fact that CSR is for branding and bring a good image to the members of the public as well as to the stakeholders, but there are always positive things attached to it. CSR contributes for the betterment of atleast few marginalized sections of the Society. Well, in practical the number far exceeds our imagination. For example Mittal Steel at Kazakhstan owned and operated a Steel Plant and to make the place better Mittal Steel also renewed the tramways, the power plants, the hotels and the Stadiums and developed Social activities such as children’s camps. This was a need for the ordinary people for good infrastructure, good education. A dream of theirs filled by one Corporate through their CSR. That’s development. It’s all about helping the targeted communities and also doing Business. A win and win situation for both the community as well as the Corporate.

One practical approach as done by some American Corporate is to allow the Industry take a leadership role to the social problems and find the ways to a sustainable livelihood in even the remote parts of the Country. It would bring funds to run these social projects effectively. It’s like Industry houses searching ways to align self interest with the larger good of the society.  When business backs philanthropic initiatives with real corporate muscle and expertise, things can drastically improve at the remote areas of a country, since in addition to cash they are providing nonprofits with managerial advice, technological and communications support, and teams of employee volunteers and they are not just funding those initiatives not only for philanthropy budgets but also from business units such as marketing and human resources. In the process, corporate houses may like to form strategic alliances with non-profits and emerging as important partners in movements for social change while advancing their business goals. These are not short term goals but needs a planning for long term management of the issues, which are addressed above.

Hence the results may not show its flavor in the present as we still believe in our notion of giving relief to the persons who are in urgent needs, but surely would give dividends in the future. There are still millions, who don’t have nutritious food. They don’t have proper house to live in. The amazing innovations that we are proud of i.e. Computers, Good Food, Technologies etc generally passes by. They remain in the same place with no growth. Yet, when we talk about development and social reforms we talk of elevating the lives of those who are not so much fortunate.

This is the reason; we need successful interventions so that they contribute to long term impacts on poverty and well being. It’s when there is Social and Environmental Sustainability; we would move a step ahead in successful applications of Disaster Management Planning and Policies and in turn would move towards a Safer India 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,
Mr. Mainak Majumdar
Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

RELIEF GUIDELINES: AN ESSENTIAL PART OF DISASTER MANAGEMENT

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EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT OF DISASTERS:

In any emergency, the response by Governments and Aid organizations can be successful if AID reaches in time and to everyone in need. But in disaster zones worldwide, despite the best efforts of many, a great need remains.

The main factors that happen in the disaster areas are:

1) Importance shifting to other points.

2) There is a clear lack of dialogue during the distribution of relief as a result there is discrimination based on the reasons of sex, ethnicity, religion etc.

3) The people of above sixty and disabled have difficulties in getting relief. The older persons and the disabled may find it difficult to travel to distribution sites and often do not have strength to carry the goods back to their shelters. This is the case, when the sites are located high above due to some security reasons. Mobility is also a big problem for these people, where flooding or other type of disasters is regular.

The elderly are often deemed helpless. When the Iranian city of Bam was destroyed by an earthquake in December 2003, killing over 26,000 people, disaster response experts were helped by local elderly men of influence who organized community responses across the city.

When relief material was distributed following the Indian Ocean Tsunami, An older people stood alone in the remains of his thatched roof and refused to join for collection of relief for him. Asked why he did not join in and he shook his head and said that’ it’s of no use. I’ve been pushed out before and have fallen on the ground.

There is also same problem in Haiti Earthquake Relief Response (2010)

These are the challenges which are faced in general:

1) Use of untrained or unqualified personnel, lack of adherence to quality and accountability standards, as well as humanitarian principles and values and the non-utilization of local response capacities and skills.

2) Sometimes delayed entry of foreign relief workers or goods and equipment, lengthy procedures for gaining legal status to operate in the disaster-affected countries.

Special emphasis should be given to Women during a disaster as they are most vulnerable. So, whether disabled or not, young or old, of whatever colour or race, women remain the most vulnerable and discriminated category, whereas the first local response comes from women.

At Banda Aceh, over 70 % of Staff of local NGOs delivering relief in Banda Aceh were women. There are instances where women were denied their rights to relief. Then there is violence against women at conflict areas. Alongside contraventions of women’s rights, disaster after disaster produces irrefutable evidence that with displacement- be it as a result of natural hazards or conflict- the risks of physical abuse to women and girls rises substantially. The nature of the discrimination varies but commonly includes sexual violence, exploitation and abuse, forced prostitution, domestic violence, trafficking, forced and early marriage and widow inheritance.

In general some disaster prone communities are also vulnerable to discrimination. This happens especially with some groups, households and individuals. A disaster can reinforce various forms of discrimination. May it be social or may it be political or may it be racial.

Another challenge, which is faced by the agencies are lack of continuous focus on the affected areas. This is due to the fact that when a disaster happens, in general the Media of the World focuses its attention to it. But at times, when things almost are half done, a different quite similar type of incidence occurs in some other part of the World and Journalists based there are given marching orders. This does hamper the development and the aid work, which was conducted in the area. Not only the agencies loses there focus but the obvious question that arises is that the Job/task remains half done. Later, we again bring some rehabilitation project into the area and that again involves lots of money. In the mean time, the persons involved in the first task loses there attention and thus lot of motivation is required for the new project officers to conduct the task. This is from my personal experience. Hence Journalists should be on board on disaster relief committees.

How to meet this challenge?

We have every reason to see that this is really a great challenge, which need to be addressed. We have to take some time and think on these lines. So, any international organizations should have separate regions and separate force ready to tackle the issues.

The international community needs to agree on clear definitions of all potential minority groups to prevent opposing interpretations and to ensure a common understanding of the vulnerability of minorities. Aid agencies need to improve initial need assessments by sharing information learning from experience and developing indicators on the impacts of discrimination. Minority and vulnerable groups need to be supported and enabled to participate in the planning; design and implementation of all emergency and non-emergency programmes. Agencies need to advocate within communities to change existing negative attitudes towards minority and vulnerable groups.

It’s a tough task, but if these can be done then, we can move one step towards a sustainable world. Agencies need to advocate within communities to change existing negative attitudes towards minority and vulnerable groups. Government and Non-Governmental agencies must also identify and address obvious and hidden discrimination, within their organizations.

On the other hand disasters do not discriminate. They strike indiscriminately, affecting minorities and majorities alike. However, there are various impacts to discrimination. The vast desert and semi-desert region in northern Kenya is home to 3 million people ‘ most of whom are pastoralists. By 2006, there has been drought in the region. In Wajir in north eastern Kenya, visiting journalists reported that many grazing cattle had died by March and that two-thirds of the people were dependent on food aid. The crippling drought was then followed by floods. The appalling infrastructure seriously hampered the food and medical aid distribution programme, as the only road to the worst affected area had reportedly been washed away. The United Nations now has sophisticated early warning system in place, based on factors such as expected rainfall and crop yield, which can forecast when critical food shortages are likely to arise in advance. Then the obvious question comes to one’s mind is that why the Government did not act in time. There may be many reasons but one may be due to the fact that Kenya’s political elite consider or regard the pastoralist way of life as an anachronism. Often it is seen that geographically distant from the capital cities; pastoralists are also sidelined politically, lacking the influence to press their case in the corridors of power.

Now with the effect of climate change felt in most parts of the world, we have a problem in the desert areas of Africa. It is also clear that the long term impact can be catastrophic. Hence, the more we go on neglecting these issues; we are going to make our fellow brother’s and sisters’ more and more dependent to disaster relief assistance. Not only that there are evidence of caste based discrimination in some parts of the World. After the Indian Ocean Tsunami, ‘Dalits’ who are treated as ‘untouchables’ in the Hindu caste system, were forbidden by other castes from drinking water from UNICEF water tanks because sharing with Dalits would, in their view pollute the water. So, discrimination can be deep rooted, not just for operational relief work but also for recovery and further rehabilitation work.

So, what could lead to a better relief?

a) The donor agency should see and include minority peoples in the team. Ideally the ratio of minority peoples in the organization should equal the ratio of minority peoples among the public.

b) Educate minority peoples with the aim of developing community resilience as well as obtaining professionals from the communities.

c) Be aware of discrimination against the minorities in humanitarian work, by self examination as well as through consultations with people from the community and human rights specialists.

d) Participate in advocacy in domestic, regional and international forums. Humanitarian organizations can also play a vital role in human rights advocacy.

e) Develop indicators on the impact of discrimination against minorities in disaster management with the co-operation of human rights.

Now the donors and the funding agencies should look into these aspects:

a) Put more value on the issue of discrimination in humanitarian operations. Disaster Relief and discrimination are inseparable issues.

b) Examine the possibility of introducing special measures for minority groups, particularly those who do not have access to basic materials.

c) Understand the vulnerability of minorities, especially those who are prone to being affected by disasters. If the region has a history of disasters, then there is an absolute need for disaster preparedness.

I visited Assam India and I found that the State Red Cross Branch, under Indian Red Cross Society have built orphanages out of their own resources. Kids in the age of 1-3 years are their occupants at ‘Sishu Gram’ (Sishu in English means Children and Gram in English means Village).

Recent floods have washed out everything. The donor attention should also focus into these aspects while funding for any program. Disasters bring along with them lots of trauma and pain. Especially the Children are the most affected. They are the living dead. A small contribution for their education and care in good shelters can make wonders. It’s not an emotional statement, but a fact which is hard to ignore.

Media:

In a disaster, it is common to see images of children, often vulnerable, unwell, used by humanitarian agencies to generate compassion and funds. While the images can create the desired effect with donors, children’s protection and special needs are rarely incorporated within budget lines and programmes, resources are not prioritized and there is a lack of clear strategies to support and protect children.

Children are too often used to generate support, but they do not always enjoy the benefits.

So, what can be done?

Prioritize prevention of discrimination and violence against children. This means clear budget lines for prevention programmes and services.

There is also a need to enhance the capacity of all humanitarian personnel through education on children’s rights.

Create accessible, safe and child-friendly reporting systems and services. This includes safe, well-publicized, confidential and accessible mechanisms for children, their caregivers and others to prevent and report violence against children.

Help to improve collaboration between humanitarian agencies. This includes developing clear systems and standards to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against children at all stages of a disaster ‘ preparedness, response and recovery. Children don’t get the support they need.

Hence, separate funds should be allocated solely for the purpose of children. Community Recovery Committees ‘ a diverse group including different ethnicities, backgrounds and genders that are well trained, with adequate resources and able to communicate with the formal humanitarian system- can greatly assist equitable assistance. An oversight mechanism to ensure that discrimination against poor and neglected groups is minimized in the committees is needed and their assessments have to be cross-checked.

I do believe that a little attention to the above mentioned problems and its solutions can help us to create a Safer World for us as well as for our future generations. Hence, we need to have effective Relief Guidelines for proper management of disasters.

I faced the situations.  Heart-rending situations in a disaster area bring tears in ones eyes. I am not emotional, but what is stated above are true facts. Please put a comment, if your time permits. I will be glad to see your support on the above issue.

Let’s together join hands and create a Safer, Stronger, Greener and a Disaster Free 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,

Mr. Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

CYCLONE MANAGEMENT

Millions of people living in the coastal areas of the West Atlantic, East, South Pacific and North and South Indian Oceans, regularly face the hazards of cyclone, also known as hurricane in the Western Hemisphere, typhoon in the western Pacific, willy willy near Australia and baguious in the Philippines.

Every cyclone begins as tropical low – pressure depressions, created by oceanic temperature rising above 26 degrees Celsius, which rotates clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere and counter clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, forming a gigantic and highly volatile atmosphere system with an eye at the vortex (10 to 50 Km) which is a relatively calm area, an eye wall (10 to 15 Km in height and 50 Km in length) of gale winds and intense clouds and spiral bands of convective clouds with torrential rains (a few Km wide and hundreds of Km long) – that move above 34 knots (64 Km per hour). The cyclones moving more than 90 Km, 120 Km and 225 Km per hour respectively have been classified as severe and super cyclones.

The hurricanes in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific basins are classified in categories I to V as per Saffir-Simpson Intensity Scale.

The lessons drawn from catastrophic cyclonic areas show that in the more developed countries, causality is less but more on the economic front.  Conversely in poor countries the human losses would be more but economic losses would be less simply because the unit costs of damages are assessed lower in developing countries. In middle income countries the damages to life and property would be somewhere in between.

The most complex task of mitigation is to map the hazard, risks and vulnerabilities of cyclone at all levels, analyze and assess the levels of risks and monitor it continuously. It is only on the basis of such knowledge base that a proper and effective strategy for cyclone risk mitigation and preparedness can be developed.

Atmospheric and Remote Sensing sciences have made a huge progress in the understanding of the phenomenon of cyclones. Satellite images can spot the development of low pressure zones, Doppler radars can track them down and instrumented aircrafts can reach the cyclone eye, eye walls and spiral bands to transmit data on wind velocity, pressure and moisture contents of the low pressure zones. Powerful Software tools are available to analyze the data to make fairly accurate forecasts on the intensity, direction and location of the landfall and the likely areas to be affected by winds, rain and storm surges.

The time series data on cyclones are now utilized to map and zone the areas prone to the hazards of cyclone. Such maps are now available at a regional, district and even sub district levels in most of the countries. Such maps are also available in digital formats which enable integration of various spatial data with socio-economic, housing, infrastructure and other variables that can provide a quick assessment of the risks and vulnerabilities of cyclone based on which appropriate mitigation and preparedness strategies can be developed.  But actual work on such data integration has been limited to few areas only and therefore vulnerability analysis has still to be done on the basis of ground level data collection and analysis, which is largely unattended task in most of the countries.

The satellite imageries are also supplemented with data regarding topography, vegetation, hydrology, land –use, land cover, settlement pattern etc to develop numerical models of storm surge and the inundation levels based on which timely warnings can be issued and realistic evacuation plans can be drawn up to shift the people and cattle likely to be affected by the cyclone.

However, such theoretical advances on cyclone modeling have been confronted with constraints in practical applications which would require more sustained research for accurate forecasting and simpler application format that would enable transfer of the technology to the planners and emergency response managers.

The constraints are further compounded by non-availability of accurate ground level data base and the costs involved in up-scaling such models from a pilot research phase to country wide application phase. Such works are still in progress even in advanced countries and therefore developing countries may not have the benefit of such accurate modeling in the very near future although this is well within the realm of possibility.

The other solution is the importance of Community Based Participatory Risk Assessment (PRA). Many such PRA tools have been developed in coastal areas which capture the intimate knowledge and perception that a community has about its own risks and vulnerabilities. Such perceptions have been validated by scientific analysis, lending credence to the reliability, simplicity and cost effectiveness of such assessment. More importantly, it involves the communities in the entire process making it democratic, sustainable and proactive and definitely facilities bridging the gap between assessment and preparedness or knowledge and action.

Therefore the ideal tool for assessment of cyclone risks and vulnerabilities at the local level should be a combination of scientific and traditional knowledge each supplementing the other.

Thanks and Regards,

Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/