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/

MANAGING CHEMICAL DISASTERS

Chemical Disasters are burning issue these days, especially after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy subject gained momentum.  A hazardous chemical not only destroy the environment but also is injurious to human beings. One example of a chemical disaster is ‘Bhopal Gas Tragedy’ December 2-3, 1984 at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. Other examples of chemical disasters are outbreak of ‘Itai-Itai’ disease, Japan, asbestos poisoning at the City of Leeds and York in United Kingdom, Methyl Mercury Poisoning Catastrophe in Iraq in the early 1970s. There are some forty thousand chemicals in commercial use; most are subject to accidental spills or releases. These types of accident vary from small to large and can occur anywhere. Chemicals are found, from oil drilling rigs to factories, tanker trucks to fifty-five-gallon drums and all the way to the local dry cleaner or your garden tool shed.
Taking all aspects in account many global initiatives have been taken for non-proliferation, counter-proliferation and consequence management of Chemical Disaster Management. These led to the establishment of Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (1997) with its headquarters at Hague, which is also the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC or convention). The initiative of formation of Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was taken on 3rd September 1992.
The State signatories of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, adopted by the Conference on Disarmament at Geneva on 3 September 1992 decided to take all necessary measures to ensure the rapid and effective establishment of the future Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. To this end there was a need to establish a Preparatory Commission with the following objectives:
1. Approve the Text on the Establishment of a Preparatory Commission, as annexed to the present resolution;
2. Request the Secretary-General, in accordance with paragraph 5 of resolution A/RES/47/39, adopted by the General Assembly on 30 November 1992, on the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, to provide the services required to initiate the work of the Preparatory Commission for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
In order to ensure the implementation of the provisions the following was to be included:
a) International verification of compliance
b) Provide a forum for consultation and Co-operation among state parties, including those in Chemical Convention
Till now OPCW member states already represent about 98% of the global population and landmass. A state becomes a State Party, and thereby a member of the Organization, by one of three means — ratification, accession or succession. Instruments of ratification, accession or succession must be deposited with the designated Depositary of the Convention, who is the Secretary-General of the United Nations. (OPCW).

As of now, there are 188 signatories to the chemical convention, six other countries have signed the proposal but have not ratified it.
Under Article 1 General Obligations, each state party to this convention undertakes provisions which are termed as NEVER under any circumstances:
1.

a) To develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone;
b) To use chemical weapons;
c) To engage in any military preparations to use chemical weapons;
d) To assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.
Article: 2
Each State Party undertakes to destroy chemical weapons it owns or possesses, or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.
Article: 3
Each State Party undertakes to destroy all chemical weapons it abandoned on the territory of another State Party, in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.
Article: 4
Each State Party undertakes to destroy any chemical weapons production facilities it owns or possesses, or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.
Article: 5
Each State Party undertakes not to use riot control agents as a method of warfare.
In a statement made by the Secretary General of the OPCW, on 10 June 2010, In his remarks on “Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Personal View”, the Director-General noted that the international community has widely and appropriately recognized the proliferation of WMDs as a threat to international peace and security, as was affirmed by the UN Security Council for the first time in 1992 and reaffirmed in September 2009. He further noted that UNSCR 1540 and the UN General Assembly’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy underscored the urgency of the potential threat of access to WMD by non-state actors.
The Director-General said the experience of the OPCW in developing an all-encompassing regime to ban chemical weapons could offer lessons for other disarmament and non-proliferation as well. Regarding the non-proliferation dimension, he observed that inspections of commercial enterprises are specific to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and represent a unique example of collaboration between the public and private sectors in promoting security while not prejudicing legitimate business interests.
Some of the initiatives taken by the United Nations on Chemical Disasters are the resolution of 1540 (2004) of the UN Security Council (UNSC) and before to that United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001).
These later gave the way to Container Security Initiative and Initiatives by Europe and Eurasia as Operational Active Endeavour (OAE).

At the same time, Chemical Disaster was a point of discussion in the ASEAN meet. ASEAN is a geopolitical and economic organization of 10 countries located in Southeast Asia. The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) is the principal forum for security dialogue in Asia. Before to ASEAN, there was another organization which existed in the South East Asia region with the name Association of South East Asia, which was commonly called as ASA, an alliance which comprised of Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. ASEAN was founded by five countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand – met at the Thai Department of Foreign Affairs building in Bangkok and signed the ACEAN declaration, more commonly known as the Bangkok declaration. Later, when it’s member strength increased to 10, ASEAN moved with their new South Asian Nuclear – weapon free zone treaty.
It was then twenty first century, issues shifted and ASEAN started giving more stress on environmental perspectives. They tried to incorporate Environmental agreements into their discussion forums. These led to the signing of Agreement on Tran boundary Haze Pollution in 2002 as an attempt to control haze pollution in the Southeast Asia. Some other treaties signed are Cebu Declaration on East Asian Energy Security, the ASEAN-Wildlife Enforcement Network in 2005 and the Clean Development and Climate treaty.
It draws together 23 countries, which have a bearing on the security of the Asia-Pacific Region.

There is also another treaty of the Basal Convention on the control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. The basic objectives of the Basel Convention are the control and reduction of Transboundary movement of hazardous and other wastes, subject to the convention; prevention and minimization of their generation, environmentally sound management of such wastes and for active promotion of the transfer and use of cleaner technologies.
Several treaties are formed by countries now to ban the Weapons of Mass destruction and let’s now discuss on some different types of chemical agents, which may be the cause of a chemical disaster:
a) Chemical warfare agents
b) Dual use chemicals
c) Toxic Industrial Chemicals/Materials (TIC/TIM)
d) HAZCHEM and their waste by-products
e) Agricultural chemicals
f) Other poisonous substances
g) Natural Gas and Petroleum Products

The chemical warfare agents may exist in liquid, gas or solid form. They can be classified based on their chemical nature, like organo-phosphorous, organo-sulphur, organo-fluorine, arsenicals and others; persistency or dose dependent lethal and incapacitating properties. Above all, the most widely used classification is based on their physiological effects. These can be also segregated as nerve agents, blistering agents, blood agents, lung agents, psychic incapacitate, riot control agents and toxins. The chemical warfare agent’s efficiency can be determined by the following:
a) The efficiency of the delivery system, such as munitions and low-flying aircraft.
b) Modes of disposal or dissemination, like spray tanks
c) Vulnerability of the potential target
d) Meteorological conditions, like wind velocity and direction, humidity, temperature etc.
The Dual use chemicals are those, which can be used for military as well as for Industrial Purposes. These Industrial Chemicals may act as potential precursors of Chemical Warfare agents and are identified in Schedule 2 and 3 of the Chemicals Weapons Convention (CWC) list of chemicals. Among the most important ones are Phosgene, Cyanogen Chloride, hydrogen cyanide and chloropicrin. The interesting fact is that Phosgene is a chemical compound, which doesn’t contain phosphorous. It’s a chemical compound with the molecular formula COCl2. The Colorless gas gained the status of a chemical weapon during World War I. Now, this same chemical compound is valued as a industrial agent and building blocks in synthesis of pharmaceuticals and other organic compounds.
Phosgene is a planar molecule as predicted by VSEPR theory. The C=O distance is 1.18 A0, the C—Cl distance is 1.74 A0 and the Cl—C—Cl angle is 111.8 degree. It’s one of the simplest acid chlorides, being formally derived from carbonic acid. Because of safety issues, phosgene is always produced and consumed within the same plant and extraordinary measures are made to contain this toxic gas.
The important toxic industrial chemicals are handled by humans and if accidentally released into the environment may cause a disaster. One of the most important examples is chlorine gas. Chlorine gas was used for the first time during World War 1. Its symbol is Cl: Its molecular formula is Cl2. Its atomic number is 17 and atomic weight is 35.46. It’s a very poisonous gas and badly affects the mucous membrane.
Hazardous waste can be explosive, inflammable or prone to spontaneous combustion, corrosive and susceptible to unpredictable deadly combinations of non-compatible wastes etc.
Agro chemicals include chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides and fungicides used in agriculture to destroy insects, fungi, bacteria, pests and weeds to regulate plant growth regulators, harvest aids and soil conditioners. It’s the Bhopal Gas Tragedy that underlined the dangers arising out of the storage of pesticides or their intermediates. Similar risks are inherent in the manufacture, formulation and transport of pesticides and their raw materials, formularies and their intermediates.
Apart from these there are many other chemical agents, which can cause a chemical disaster. Methyl Mercury, Arsenic, Lead etc are agents which are of major environmental poisons.
Even Natural gas and petroleum products can be used as agents for creating havoc and causalities. LNG can be transported by tankers and can be used as cryogenic agents for causing large fires, thereby creating mass panic reaction and fatalities. CNG cascades can have a devastating effect.
Keeping all these in mind, the WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Commission was launched by the Government of Sweden in Stockholm on December 16, 2003 to respond to the recent, profoundly worrying developments in International security, and in particular to investigate ways of reducing the dangers from nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological weapons.

Chaired by Dr Hans Blix, the former head of UNMOVIC and the IAEA, the WMD Commission comprises 14 eminent members, representing a broad and relevant geographical and political base with a vast reservoir of expert knowledge and political experience, spanning the Governmental, academic and nongovernmental arenas. The Commissioners serve in their personal capacity.  They meet periodically, discuss the issues, assess a range of expert studies and contribute their analyses, thoughts and proposals to the collective work of the Commission. The Commission aims to develop realistic proposals for the greatest possible reduction of the dangers of weapons of mass destruction, including both short-term and long-term approaches and non-proliferation and disarmament aspects.
The idea of an independent commission on weapons of mass destruction was initially put forward in 2002 by Jayantha Dhanapala, then UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs.  Concerned that in the post 9/11 geostrategic environment, weapons of mass destruction were acquiring a revived and dangerous attraction not only for states, but also for nonstate actors, such as terrorists, the idea arose from the need to find fresh and comprehensive approaches to addressing these threats from the perspectives of non-proliferation and disarmament, as well as preventing terrorism. The initiative was taken up in 2003 by the late Swedish Foreign Minister, Anna Lindh, who asked Dr Blix to set up and chair the WMD Commission.
Hence the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons states the following agenda’s:
a) Demilitarisation:
The most important obligation under the Convention is the destruction of chemical weapons. It is also the most expensive aspect of the Convention’s implementation.
b) Non-proliferation:

Each State Party shall adopt the necessary measures to ensure that toxic chemicals and their precursors are only developed, produced, otherwise acquired, retained, transferred, or used within its territory or in any other place under its jurisdiction or control for purposes not prohibited under this Convention.
c) Assistance and Protection:

Chemical weapons are frightening and dreadful weapons. All Member States have pledged to provide assistance and protection to fellow Member States threatened by the use of chemical weapons or attacked with chemical weapons.
d) International Cooperation:

The Organization’s international cooperation programmes focus on capacity building for the peaceful applications of chemistry in areas which are relevant to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Support programmes, funded by the Member States, enhance the ability of the Organization to hinder prohibited activity and to extend the benefits of peaceful uses of chemistry to all.
e) Universality:

Adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention demonstrates a state’s commitment to disarmament and international co-operation, and helps to reinforce its position in the mainstream of international politics. It builds confidence and transparency in security-related policies at regional and international levels.
f) National implementation:

The Secretariat’s implementation-support programmes help State Parties to meet their obligations under Article VII of the Convention. This includes establishing National Authorities for effective liaison with the OPCW; taking the necessary steps to enact legislation, including penal legislation, and to adopt administrative measures to implement the Convention; identifying declarable chemical-industry and trade activities; and submitting accurate declarations.
Trauma and Community Behaviour during a Chemical Disaster:

Chemical disaster has very far reaching effects beyond the immediate victims. Since fear is deliberately created and exploited during such attacks, it can undeniably be regarded as a form of psychological warfare affecting and attacking the behaviour of much wider target population. It is often very difficult to differentiate psychological harm caused by chemical terrorism from other illness. Previous events have showed that a large number of patients with psychological distress will impact emergency response and potentially overwhelm the health care system. There need to be strategies that need to be developed which could eliminate fear and will decrease subsequent mass psychological distress that may likely occur during a chemical disaster.
Research and documentation needs to be done on this subject and to find ways to reduce mass panic and bring normalcy.  There need a proper management of risks and need lot of research to find proper solutions. Risk Assessment is about identifying the potential hazards and risks associated with a substance, process or activity and determining ways of managing those hazards and risks before adverse effects become evident. A hazard is that which has the potential to cause harm either living organisms or to the physical environment. Risk is the likelihood or probability of suffering a harmful effect or effects resulting from exposure to some chemical, biological or physical agent or some other adverse effect occurring.
The evolutionary approach to risk assessment becomes less useful the more complex a system becomes. Indeed, a more rigid and mathematically based approach to risk assessment is developing because many people- made systems are so complex that it is not possible for one single person to understand the whole system. Risk Assessment attempts to quantify the probabilities and degrees of harm that result from a complex operation – which can significantly bring down the scale of Disasters which may be by accident or human induced. Proper assessment with proper mitigation strategies will definitely help to lessen the effects of a Chemical Disaster.

Please Note: The above writing on ‘Chemical Disaster’ is focused to aware the people and also to disseminate knowledge for students and members of the public to learn and know the ways to save oneself from Chemical Disasters. Incase, there is any mistake in the above data, kindly feel free to mail me at the e-mail address given below.

(Ref: Data taken from Organisation For The Prohibition Of Chemical Weapons, WMDC, National Disaster Management, ASEAN etc)
Thanks and Regards,
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.

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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/

CREATING LIFE: IS IT A BLESSING OR A CALL FOR AN UNKNOWN DISASTER?

Life was formed 3.6 billion years ago. Some scientist’s are of different view. There are various models for origin of life and is a debatable issue. Religious groups take a different stand. But whatever it is, evolution of life is still a mystery. Scientists after their experiment had arrived at a conclusion that life arose from a single cell. That which has the capacity to replicate, and its progeny replicated them, and so on, with lots of genetic twists and it is carried on from generations to generations and thus we find the living beings in this world.

Imagine all this started with just a DNA (Deoxy Ribo Nuclic Acid)!

Today, every living organism – every person, plant, animal and microbe – can trace its heritage back to that first cell.

Imagine amongst this present day species, arrives some new comers and here we are not talking of some extraterrestrials. Scientists in the last couple of years have been trying to create novel forms of life. They’ve forged chemicals into synthetic DNA, the DNA into genes, genes into genomes and built the molecular machinery of completely new organisms in their lab, such type of organisms that are nothing like anything Nature has produced before. We do not know, what forms of life that would be. Will the new species succumb us or it will help us to move our life with more ease is a question, which time can only answer. If the earlier fact is true then we are into trouble. As, it would be the reason for a new disaster!

If the latter part is true, we can live a better life. The notion of creating life in the lab has plenty of detractors. Some Scientists aren’t convinced it can be done and religious leaders and environmentalists are in arm against this move. But there are also lots of advantages to it. Jay Keasling at UC Berkeley received $ 42 million from Bill Gates to create living microfactories that manufacture a powerful antimalaria agent. (Newsweek). Imagine that a microbe being created that would circulate in the blood and hunt down Cancer Cells, Imagine such type of bio devices that could conceivably have enormous advantages over traditional manufacturing processes and sources of material. Cell machinery that could operate the equivalent of multistep production lines at molecular level, fabricating complex chemical products precisely, atom by atom.  They would also work cheaply and efficiently, fed by simple safe substances like sugar. A few such types of projects are already giving us a glimpse of the power of this new field. The most extraordinary effort is to create a microbial organism that would produce a powerful antimalarial drug.

New York Times newspaper reports: ‘Such Biofabs produce made- to- order genes, the stretches of DNA that contain the instructions for living creatures.’ Sale of gene-synthesis industry are estimated at only $ 50 million a year, but they are growing rapidly. One foundry in Germany, has gone public. It says it expects sales this year to increase at least 60% , to 12.5 million euros, or about $17 billion, New York Times report.

The ability to make genes has given rise to a new subject called synthetic biology, which might lead to artificial life in very few years. Genetic Engineers extract a gene from an organism. Then they might modify it and put it in a different organism. There is certainly a behavior change in the organism. It then acts in the desired way. And once this bio device is designed and properly fabricated, the hard work becomes over – its users can instruct it to make as many copies of itself, by itself, as are needed. This Biodevices could make impossible drugs, including ones that are quite impossible to create through traditional chemistry. While there might be some other biodevices created that act as sensitive environmental biosensors, programmed to detect and degrade specific toxic organisms or  act as indicators like glow in the proximity of a biological, chemical or radioactive weapon. Anything is possible with these genetically modified organisms.

An organization is eyeing an even bigger prize: a self sustaining, highly efficient biological organism that converts sunlight directly into clean biofuel, with minimal environmental impact and zero net release of greenhouse gases (Newsweek).

Now, look at it in this way. Imagine that any of these mutated forms of biodevice doesn’t obey orders.

A species, which becomes an enemy of its own masters, it’s own Gods.

Probably, it would be a day, when humans have to wage war against that unknown species, which if wins, would lead to our extinction. Pope Benedict XVI has expressed outrage at scientists who “modify the very grammar of life as planned and willed by God.”

Some critics point out that Government should devise some regulations for saving Humans from any such mishaps.  “The result is not bioterror,” ETC Group, a technology watcher said in a report, “but BIOERROR” and we write our own annihilation story.

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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/

EARTHQUAKE AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT


An earthquake is a series of vibrations on the earth’s surface caused by the generation of elastic (seismic) waves due to sudden rupture within the earth during release of accumulated strain energy.

Faulting may be considered as an immediate cause of an earthquake.    Due to constant movement of plates, deformation is caused which results to generations of strain energy. Indian  plate is moving in  north-north-east  direction  and  colliding  with  Eurasian  plate   along  the  Himalayas. All earthquakes, let it be the Gujarat Earthquake, Kutch (16 Jun, 1819, Magnitude 8), Shillong Plateau Earthquake (12 Jun 1897, Magnitude 8.7), Bihar Nepal Border Earthquake (15 Jan 1934, Magnitude 8.3), Arunachal Pradesh China Earthquake (15 Aug, 1950), Gujarat Earthquake, Bhuj (26 Jan 2001, Magnitude 7.7), Sumatra Earthquake (26 December, 2004, Magnitude 9.3), Kashmir Earthquake (08 October, 2005) have same story to tell about our destruction and annihilation.

The Recent Earthquake at Haiti (13 January, 2010, Magnitude 7) again repeats our helplessness to this mighty force of nature. Management of earthquake has become very crucial in this trouble times.

Severity of an Earthquake is measured by:

  • Slight – Magnitude up to 4.9 in a Richter Scale
  • Moderate – Magnitude up to 5 to 6.9 in a Richter Scale
  • Great – Magnitude up to 7.0 to 7.9 in a Richter Scale
  • Very Great – Magnitude up to 8.0 and more

A proactive stance to reduce the toll of disasters in the region requires a more comprehensive approach that encompasses both pre-disaster risk reduction and post disaster recovery. It is framed by new policies and institutional arrangements that support effective action. These types of approaches need the following set of activities:

  • Risk analysis to identify the kind of risks faced by the people and development investments as well as magnitude
  • Prevention and mitigation to address the structural sources of vulnerability
  • Risk transfer to spread financial risks over time and among different actors
  • Emergency preparedness and response to enhance a country’s readiness to cope quickly and effectively
  • Post disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction to support effective recovery and to safeguard against future disasters.

There are different types of theories which states about the causes of an earthquake. Hence the true nature of an earthquake must be well understood before adopting any control measures.

Two models were suggested. One was the Dilatancy –Diffusion Theory developed in the USA and the other is the Dilatancy – Instability theory of the then USSR.

The interesting fact is that the first stage of both the models is an increase of elastic strain in a rock that causes them to undergo a dilatancy state, which is an inelastic increase in volume that starts after the stress on a rock reaches one half its breaking strength. Hence it is in this state the first physical change takes place indicating future earthquake.

The USA model suggests that the dilatancy and fracture of the rocks are first associated with low water containing dilated rock, which helps in producing lower seismic event. The pore water pressure then increases due to influx of water into the open fracture, weakening the rock and facilitating movement along the fracture, which is termed as an earthquake.

Now let us take the Russian Model: The first phases is accompanied by an avalanches of fracture that release some stress but produce an unstable situation that eventually cause a large movement along a fracture. Seismic gaps are defined as an area along active fault zones, capable of producing large earthquake but that have not recently produced an earthquake.

It is these areas which are thought to bring in tectonic strain and which are the candidates for future large earthquake. Any fault that has moved during quaternary can be called as active fault. It is generally assumed that these faults could get displaced at any time. Faults that have been inactive for the last 3 million years are generally classified as inactive fault.

Active fault are basically responsible for seismic shaking and surface rupture (Sinha et al.2000). Like all other natural hazards earthquakes also produce primary and secondary effects. Primary effects include surface vibration, which may be associated with surface rupture and displacement long fault plane. These vibrations may sometimes lead to the total collapse of large buildings, dams, tunnels, pipelines and other rigid structures.

Secondary effects of an earthquake include a variety of short range events: such as liquefaction landslides, fires, tsunamis and floods. Long range effects include regional phenomenon such as regional subsidence or emergence of landmasses, river shifting and regional changes in ground level.

The main objective of earthquake preventive measures should be to develop and promote knowledge, practices and policies that reduce fatalities, injuries and other economic losses from an earthquake. Geographic Information System and Remote Sensing provides a tool effective and efficient storage and manipulation of remotely sensed data and other spatial and non-spatial data types for both scientific management and policy oriented information. This can be used to facilitate measurement, mapping, monitoring and modeling of variety of data type’s related natural phenomenon.

The critical areas that need focus for effective Earthquake Management are:

• Lack of awareness among various stakeholders about the seismic risk;

• Inadequate attention to structural mitigation measures in the engineering education syllabus;

• Inadequate monitoring and enforcement of earthquake-resistant building codes and town planning

bye-laws;

• Absence of systems of licensing of engineers and masons;

• Absence of earthquake-resistant features in non-engineered construction in suburban and rural

areas;

• Lack of formal training among professionals in earthquake-resistant construction practices; and

• Lack of adequate preparedness and response capacity among various stakeholder groups.

A number of organizations, like NGOs, self-help groups, CBOs, youth organizations, women’s groups, volunteer agencies, Civil Defense, Home Guards, etc. volunteer their services in the aftermath of any disaster. Large-scale natural disasters draw overwhelming humanitarian support from different stakeholders. The relief and response activities carried out by such stakeholder’s comply with the norms prescribed by the appropriate authorities. After an earthquake, accurate information is generally provided on the extent of the damage and the details of the response activities through electronic and print media.

The personal dos and don’ts at the time of an earthquake are given below for reference and awareness generation:

DO’S:

  • Take shelter under a desk, table, bed   or doorway during an earthquake.
  • Provide help to others and develop confidence.
  • Shut off kitchen gas.
  • Keep stock of drinking water, food stuff and first aid arrangements.
  • If you are in a moving vehicle, stop and stay in vehicle.
  • Follow and advocate local safety building code for earthquake resistant construction.
  • Heavy objects, glasses should be kept on lower shelf.
  • Turn on transistor or T.V.  to get latest information.
  • Make plan and preparation for emergency relief.

DON’Ts

  • Do not get panicky
  • Do not use candles, matches etc and do not switch any electric mains immediately after an earthquake.
  • Do not spread and  believe in  rumors
  • Do not run through or near buildings during an  earthquake

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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/

A Hiroshima – Climate Change Annihilation Story

Hiroshima is the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshū, the largest island of Japan. Hiroshima was founded on the river delta coastline of the Seto Inland Sea in 1589 by Mōri Terumoto.

A city destroyed by an Atom Bomb ( at 8:15 -Hiroshima Time) known as “Little Boy”, a gun type fission weapon with 60 Kilograms (130 lb) of Uranium-235, took 57 seconds to fall from the aircraft to the predetermined detonation height of about 600 meters (2000 ft) above the city.

An estimate suggested that 69% of Hiroshima’s buildings were destroyed and 70,000–80,000 people or some 30% of the population of Hiroshima were killed immediately, and another 70,000 injured. Over 90% of the doctors and 93% of the nurses in Hiroshima were killed or injured—most had been in the downtown area which received the greatest damage.  So, how many people was a sacrifice to this bomb? Those who had lived through the catastrophe placed the number of the deaths at least 100,000.

In the Milky Way Galaxy, there lies another destination for people to stay, its called ‘Earth’. Here is a description of what Earth is like: It’s the third planet from the Sun, and the fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest, most massive, and densest of the Solar System’s four terrestrial (or rocky) planets. It is sometimes referred to as the World or the Blue Planet.

It’s the Home to millions of species including humans.

Imagine this Earth being destroyed by a thousand times strong force of Mother Nature engulfing from all sides. Tropical cyclones out at sea causing huge waves, torrential rains, high winds disrupting and destructing everything on the way causing wide spread demolition. Very strong winds stirring up water and destroy buildings, bridges, outside objects, turning loose debris into deadly flying projectiles. Sea level rising and you have no place to go. You see the end of your only living city in the Milky Way; ‘THE EARTH’.  Imagine solar storms bombarding this ‘Earth’ with lots of radiation energy, knocking out power grids and destroying satellites and you go back to the Dark Age suddenly without any warning. Is it just our fantasy or it may happen some day? Only time can answer to these questions.

It was during the 1980s that the possibility of rapid climatic change occurring at the time-scale of human life more or less fully recognized, largely due to the Greenland ice core drilled at Dye 3 in Southern Greenland (Dansgaard et al., 1982, 1989). A possible link between such events and the mode of operation of the ocean was then subsequently suggested (Oeschger et al., 1984; Broecker et al., 1985; see Broecker, 1997, for a recent review).

The Second Assessment Report, IPCC reviewed the evidence of such changes since the peak of the last inter-glacial period about 120 thousands of years before present (BP). It concluded that:

(1) Large and rapid climatic changes occurred during the last Ice Age and during the transition towards the present Holocene;

(2) Temperatures were far less variable during this latter period

(3) Suggestions those rapid changes may have also occurred during the last inter-glacial period, which requires confirmation.

Calculations are not so easy. Researchers need to understand the behavior of the major ice sheets that cover Greenland, Antarctic and Arctic. Any of these collapses and we are in danger. While computer models now yield an increasingly sophisticated understanding of how a warning atmosphere would behave, such models have yet to fully encapsulate the complex processes that regulate ice sheet behavior.

“The question is: Can we predict sea level? We have to watch the oceans to see what happens and we may observe the change much more than we ever predict it.

There’s a continent of topography sitting under Antarctica. Everything there has an impact on how the ice sheet flows, and very little of that has been mapped.

Whatever it is, the world has been getting warmer by 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit every decade, a U.N. panel found this year, in part because of carbon dioxide and other human-generated gases that trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere. By nature’s clock, the warming has come in an instant. The mechanisms that helped animals adapt during previous warming spells — evolution or long-range migration — often aren’t able to keep up. Scientists say that effects are beginning to show from the Arctic to the Appalachian Mountains. One study, which examined 1,598 plant and animal species, found that nearly 60 percent appeared to have changed in some way.

Some of the best-known changes are happening near the poles, where the air and the water are warming especially quickly. As they do, sea ice is receding. For some animals, this has meant literally the loss of the ground beneath their feet.

So, who knows when we lose the ground below our feet? This could be the annihilation story of a city ‘Earth’ in Milky Way, where humans lived.

Disaster Management specialists are always on the move. Making plans and policies far in advance to meet the challenge of climate change. So, no matter if Copenhagen could show us the way or not, we need to be ready personally.  We need to act fast and make a move to know the details of climate change and its solutions.

Any wrong move by the Nations could leave the Aliens (if ever they exist) celebrate ‘Earth Day’ in a far away planet only to tell a tale of another annihilation story.

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Kindly give your feedback.

Please feel free to contact the disaster management consultant, in case your Organization needs any consultancy on Disaster Management.

Thanks and Regards,

Mr. Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

NATURAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT AND CORPORATE PHILANTHROPY (CSR)

Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate Social Responsibility

Dictionary meaning of ‘Philanthropy’ is ‘the effort or inclination to increase the well-being of humankind, as by charitable aid or donations.’ There is a continuous debate among the organizations regarding this factor. It’s a debate between critics and investors. The former states that Corporate Philanthropy is about applying pressure to maximize the short term profits, which the later disagrees. Investor’s states that corporate can use their charitable efforts to improve the competitive context – the quality of the business environment in the locations where they operate. Its not just business environment, but social environment too gets an uplift. Philanthropic investment’s has the power to improve education and local quality of life; which will in many ways benefit the company. It has been observed that ‘charitable giving’ raises about one-third as fast as the stock market and according to Giving USA, American philanthropy reach a record high in 2007, with donations totaling $314-billion. Giving has since dropped by 2% to $308 billion in 2008. It is estimated total charitable contributions will total $21.2 to $55.4 trillion between 1998- 2052. By the year 2055, some $41 trillion will change hands as Americans pass on their accumulated assets to the next generation. As of fiscal year the top U.S Grant Making Foundations are: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, W.K Kellogg Foundation and the list go on. It was Mahatma Gandhi, who once said that, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread”.

It is seen that majority of corporate contribution programs are diffuse and unfocused. Most consist of numerous small cash donations given to aid local civic causes or they provide general operating support to universities and national charities in the hope of generating goodwill among employees, customers and the local community. These types of programs clearly lack focus. These are works, what was done some hundred of years ago and still continuing. A number of companies have attempted to make their giving, more strategic. But what currently passes for strategic philanthropy has neither been really strategic, nor particularly effective. Rather than being tied to social or business objectives – the contributions often reflect the personal beliefs. These need to change and the use of strategic responsibility should be used. In turn, we can talk about the term of ‘Creative Capitalism’. In general the corporate can use their charitable efforts in improving their competitive context – the quality of their business environment and in the location or locations where they operate.

Using this strategy or method, it helps to increase or enhance the context which brings social and economic goals into alignment and improves the company’s long term business prospects. In addition; addressing context enables a company not only to give money but also to leverage its capabilities and relationships in support of charitable causes.

Today many companies are depending on local capacities. They mostly depend on brining talents from outside and collaborate with local Non-Governmental Organizations and Institutions, Universities to conduct research and development.

A company’s competitive context consists of four interrelated elements of the local business environment that shape potential productivity. They are:

a) Factor conditions

b) Available inputs of production

c) Demand productions

d) The context for strategy and rivalry and related and supporting industries

Clusters arise through the combined influence of all the four elements of context. They are often prominent features of a region’s economic landscape. Corporate responsibility clusters come in different shapes, sizes and types with different types of organization leading their development. Common, however, are their underlying effects on business performance by: expanding business ability to learn from diverse, rich sources; grow competencies to translate these learning into improved business performance; gain support from a growing network of service providers that enable companies to more effectively manage their relationships and reputation; and produce benefits from an approach to public policy that moulds markets in ways that reward responsible practices.

Now the clusters are of four types:

a) Challenge Clusters

b) Market-making Clusters

c) Partnership Clusters

d) Statutory Clusters

Challenge Clusters tend to be started or initiated by civil society players. Market making Clusters are often lead by one or more companies. They involve remolding competitive conditions from the inside and outside, which can be done by innovating more and more sustainable products. Partnership clusters means involving more formal, multisectoral partnerships, which can support competitive advantage. Statutory clusters involve public policies focused on CSR standards and practices that support competitive advantage.

These four types of clusters are neither static nor distinct phenomena. They really take one form for prolonged periods of time and often combine several or all these forms at different stages in their development. Corporate Responsibility Cluster potential is not evenly distributed in all sectors, geography or time. Labour intensive sectors like textiles and footwear may see sector wise clusters. However, their current potential is reliant on company’s sense of commercial importance of the ‘ethnic concerns’

Clusters are driven by two dominant factors.

• The ‘legitimacy’ effect: clustering is most likely to arise where the potential is greatest for making social and environmental aspects of the value-chain of tangible concern to stakeholders who count.

• The ‘productivity’ effect: clustering is most likely to arise where the potential is greatest for translating social and environmental enhancements in the value chain into labour and resource efficiency, and productivity gains.

The legitimacy effects, for example, depend to a large extent on the vibrancy of civil society organizations in raising public attention and responsiveness. At any point in time this may be directed at individual companies or sectors. But over time, such vibrancy extends beyond, and indeed is enhanced by the very success of these individual initiatives.

If one carefully analyzes the situation, then it is found that a company can identify the areas of overlap between social and economic value that will most enhance its own and the cluster of competitiveness.

Factor conditions and its utility:

The type of philanthropy depends on the local conditions or factors. High level of productivity depends on the presence of trained workers, high quality scientific and technological institutions, adequate physical infrastructure, transparent and efficient administrative processes (such as company requirements and available resources). All are areas that philanthropy can influence.

Demand conditions:

Demand conditions in a nation or region include the size of the local market, the appropriateness of product standards and the sophistication of the local customers. Now, let’s take an example; an area where the health sector is using sophisticated technologies, there medical device companies are sure to increase. Thus in a Cluster, the company which had good CSR and had been able to use their skills for improving the health sector is not only increasing profitability but also is able to influence the CSR cluster potential.

Context for Strategy and Rivalry:

The rules, incentives and norms governing competition in a nation or region have a fundamental influence on productivity. The policies that encourage investment protect intellectual property, open local markets to trade, break up or prevent the formation of cartels and monopolies. Philanthropy is the reason for strong influence on creating a more productive and transparent environment for competition.

Related Industries:

Whenever, there are industries, which support the main industry, the productivity increases. These are due to the fact that proximity enhances responsiveness, exchange of information and innovation and thus reduces carrying costs and transportation costs.

Now, Philanthropy can foster the development of clusters and thus in turn strengthen the Industries.

Hence, while making policies for Corporate Social Responsibility, one need to understand the link between philanthropy and competitive context which will help the company to identify where they should focus their corporate giving. The ways to find out the best organizations as per the conditions is already discussed above. Here it is better to mention that corporate giving means giving money to other organizations that actually help to deliver the social and environmental benefits. Hence, it is very clear that the impact or the success of the project/program lies in the effectiveness of the recipient. Hence extensive research should be carried out before selecting those recipients that will achieve the Greatest Social Impact.

It’s only then we can together create a more Developed World for us as well for our future generations.

Writer:

Mr. Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

Climate Change And Its Impacts

Our personal perception of Climate Change is largely developed through experience and interpretation of records compiled by our ancestors. People who grow up in the warmer temperate regions and tropics are in awe at the first sight of snow, no matter what they have read or visualized from film and television. It is also true that normal climate for a locality is based on weather, which we have experienced over recent years. This perception often occurs despite accounts of earlier catastrophes that had their origin in climate extremes, such as violent storm, flood or drought. Perhaps the exception is the markings seen around many riverside towns that point to levels achieved by past flood events. One of the strengths of humankind has been the ability to survive, adapt and prosper across a wide range of climatic regimes. If we look through the doors of history then we find that our communities have shown a capacity to withstand persisting climatic fluctuations. They do adapt and try to stabilize themselves as and when the climate becomes normal. However, there have been times, when prosperous civilizations have fallen, apparently because the regional Climate Change was so severe and prolonged that the social systems based on food production and trade could not sustain and a disaster took place. An Early record of the annual flow of the Nile River more than two thousand years ago and irrigation activities in China more than one thousand years ago survived and gave us insights into how climate has been in the past. With more of human intervention due to various reasons, there is an increase of Greenhouse Gases and Global Warming, which destabilized our Environment.

The World has surpassed a UN Goal of planting one billion trees in 2007 to help slow climate change. It was basically huge forestry projects in Ethiopia and Mexico. According to Indonesia President, about 79 million trees have been planted. He stated that the country would take steps to protect its rapidly dwindling rain forest. When we talk of green belt movement in Kenya, then one obviously remember the name of the Kenyan Environmentalist and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Wangari Maathai, who through her tireless work have contributed a lot to counter deforestation from logging and the burning of forests to create farmland.

A very interesting approach for a good forest management is the Green Belt Movement in Kenya.

GBM Kenya is a non-profit grassroots non-governmental organization. GBM Kenya focuses on six core programs:

·Environmental Conservation/Tree Planting

·Civic & Environmental Education

·Advocacy & Networking

·Pan African Training Workshops

·Green Belt Safaris (GBS)

·Women for Change (Capacity Building)

Green Belt Movement International has four goals:

·Goal 1: To strengthen and expand the Green Belt Movement in Kenya

·Goal 2: To share the Green Belt Movement’s program with other countries in Africa and beyond

·Goal 3: To empower Africans, especially women and girls, and nurture their leadership and entrepreneurial skills

·Goal 4: Advocate internationally for the environment, good governance, equity and cultures of peace

Asia and Pacific region accounts for 18.8 per cent of global forests. Within the region, Northwest Pacific and East Asia has the largest forest area (29.3 per cent of the regional total, followed by Southeast Asia (29.1 percent). Deforestation and forest degradation are critical issues, threatening biodiversity, ecosystem stability and the long term availability of forest products as well as depleting the natural resource. Population Pressure, Need for timber, urban and industrial need is the main causes for deforestation. Africa’s forest cover was estimated to be about 650 million ha, constituting 17 percent of the World’s Forest (FAO 2001). Here also deforestation both for commercial timber and to make room for agriculture is the main concern and represents an enormous loss of natural economic wealth to the Countries.

This in turn had a very bad effect on Climate. Therefore effective climate management also has to include these points:

·Strengthen basic and applied research for improved forest planning and management, with emphasis on environmental functions of forests.

·Modernize forest management concepts by including multiple functions and reflecting the cost and benefits of the amenities that forest provide.

·Co-operation of United Nations bodies to meet the needs for new knowledge to incorporate environmental values in National Land Use and its Forest Management.

·Effective Surveillance of the World’s Forest Cover.

Recent Bali conference on Climate Change has a difficult road to go before we can create a sustainable environment. Problems are many and we have very little time. A careful planning, policies and its immediate implementation can go a long way in creation of a Good Climate and in turn a Safer World. The outcome of this conference will, to a degree, determine whether Bali – and other vulnerable places – is destined to become a lost paradise, or not. If the Outcome of this conference keeps pace with the many positive political signals of the past year, we are on a good road to preventing a lost paradise. Almost, now after IPCC’s series of reports on Climate Change, people are taking things seriously.

But all this took a lot of time. It was in October 1985, at an International meeting in Villach, Austria convened by United Nations agencies, a group of Scientists decided it was time for the World to take action. The meeting concluded that there was a need to combat the perceived danger of global warming that would result from increasing concentrations of so-called green house gases in the atmosphere. These green house gas concentrations, particularly those of carbon dioxide (a product of burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels) are increasing as a direct consequence of a range of human activities. A good climate leads to a sustainable development. Sustainable development is a deep –seated value and it encompasses issues of great importance to citizens, whether it is maintaining and increasing long term prosperity, addressing climate change or working towards a safe, healthy and socially inclusive society.

As, we face increasingly rapid Global Changes, from the melting of the icecaps to growing energy demand and higher prices, the need to address unsustainable trends and change our behavior and attitudes is more pressing than ever.

If we take a deep look at the European Union’s Sustainable development, then we find that it is targeted at achieving high level of Environmental Protection, Social equity and cohesion, economic prosperity and active promotion of sustainable development worldwide.

There are infact multiple inter linkages between key challenges: for example between the use of renewable energy and climate change and poverty.

The overallObjective of this sustainable development is to identify and develop actions to enable us to achieve continuous improvement of quality of life both for current and for future generations, through the creation of sustainable communities, who are able to manage and use resources efficiently and to tap the ecological and social innovation potential of the economy, ensuring prosperity, environmental protection and social cohesion. The renewed strategy sets the overall objectives:

·Climate Change and Clean Energy

·Sustainable Transport

·Sustainable Consumption and Production

·Public Health Threats

·Better Management of Natural Resources

·Social Inclusion, demography and migration

The best way to deal with Climate Change is to renew our commitment to Sustainable Development. It doesn’t mean that we use our resources in a random way. It means that the needs of the present generation should be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It should be an objective of our policy makers to set out a treaty, governing all the Union’s Policies and activities. It is about safe guarding the earth’s capacity to support life in all its diversity and is based on the principles of democracy, gender equality, solidarity, the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights, including freedom and equal opportunities for all. Its all so inter related. To that end it promotes a dynamic economy with full employment and a high level of education, health protection, social and territorial cohesion and environmental protection in a peaceful and secure World, respecting the Cultural Diversity, Traditions, Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Religions etc. To that effect, it is also important to use ways for newer technology to fight Climate Change. Use of Remote Sensing Satellites and GIS has to be given more importance. Use of green technology has a great role to play for a sustainable environment and in turn a sustainable Climate.

The Villach Statement and its threat of global warming became an international forum for actions to curb emissions of green house gases to the atmosphere. Around the World a diverse range of interest groups, especially across the environment movement, co-operated to raise public awareness of the greenhouse climate change threat.Later a series of Government and National and International conferences of invited experts were widely reported in the media and ensured a raised public recognition of the issue. So, successful was the awareness- raising campaign that within 3 years the United Nations, through its agencies UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and WMO (The World Meteorological Organization), had established an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which we know as IPCC.

This organization was empowered with:

a) “Assessing the scientific information that is related to the various components of the climate change issue, such as emissions of major green house gases and modification of the earth’s radiation balance resulting there from and that needed to enable the environmental and socioeconomic consequences of climate change to be evaluated.

b) Formulating realistic response strategies for the management of the climate change issue.

3 working groups were established to address the IPCC objectives. The tasks of Working Groups I, II and III were respectively to:

i) Assess available scientific information on climate change.

ii) Assess environmental and socio-economic impacts of climate change.

iii) Formulate response strategies.

The working group did confirm the Villach conclusions and found a serious anthropogenic threat to the Global Climate. After a period of less than 18 months, in July 1990, the IPCC WG1 published their findings following an assessment of the available scientific literature. The principal findings of the report were:

i)There is a greenhouse effect because a range of gases occurring naturally in the atmosphere, such carbon dioxide, keep the earth’s surface warmer than it would otherwise be.

ii)The concentrations in the atmosphere of a range of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, are increasing because of human activities.

iii)The increasing concentrations of certain greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide will lead to global warming but neither its magnitude timing, nor its regional characteristics could be determined.

Later the United Nations General Assembly took up the challenge presented by the IPCC scientific assessment and the Statement of the second World Climate conference. An Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee was convened to develop a Framework Convention on Climate Change in time for the June 1992, Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro.The committee, open to all member countries of the United Nations, met six occasions between 1991 and May 1992 before finally a reaching agreement. At the Earth Summit, representatives of more than 150 countries signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that results from negotiations. More countries signed subsequently.

The Convention requires countries to take actions necessary for “Stabilization of green house gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

Despite the perceived threat posed by anthropogenic global warming, the short period available for negotiations meant that agreement could not be reached on binding mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and commitments that individual countries should make. Counter balancing the global warming threat were the immediate economic and social costs that would be experienced by many countries if they took action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The IPCC continued its work and issued its Second Assessment Report in 1995. Contemporary experiments using computer models of the climate system and various natural and anthropogenic forcing functions pointed to anthropogenic signals that could be detected in the observed Global Warming Pattern. The IPCC in its Second Assessment Report concluded that the balance of evidence suggested that a discernible human influence on global climate could be detected.

The public interest in the anthropogenic global warming issue and the perceived need for action did not abate. More than 10,000 people, made up mostly of non-government lobby groups and representatives of the World media, converged on Kyoto, Japan in December 1997 for the third meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC. They were there to witness Government delegates negotiate a Protocol to stem the unconstrained emission of green house gases into the atmosphere. The Protocol was expected to give teeth to the Convention.

The Recent Conference on Climate Change (December 3rd, 2007), hosted by the Government of Indonesia, is taking place at the Bali International Convention Centre and brings together representatives of over 180 countries together with observers from Intergovernmental and Nongovernmental organizations and the media. The two week period includes the sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, its subsidiary bodies as well as the Meeting of the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol. A ministerial segment in the second week will conclude the Conference.

What is needed is a breakthrough in the form of a roadmap for a future international agreement on enhanced global action to fight climate change in the period after 2012, the year the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires.

The main goal of the Bali Conference is threefold: to launch negotiations on a climate change deal for the post-2012 period, to set the agenda for these negotiations and to reach agreement on when these negotiations will have to be concluded.

However, this is an opportunity for good negotiations and would constitute a breakthrough. Areas which countries have already indicated a new deal is likely to cover are mitigation – including reducing emissions from deforestation – adaptation, technology and financing.

In addition to the future climate change process, other important ongoing issues will are inclusion of adaptation to climate change, the management and operation of a fund for adaptation, technology transfer, reducing emissions from deforestation and issues relating to the international carbon market spawned by the Kyoto Protocol.

However, European Union has gone a long way towards sustainable Climate Change. The ‘Environment for Europe’ process now brings together 56 countries across three continents to jointly address environmental challenges. In support of this process, the European Environment Agency has prepared a series of assessments of the environment for the pan European region to provide policy relevant, up to date and reliable information on the interactions between the environment and society.

The first comprehensive assessment of the state of the pan European environment was presented in Sofia in 1995. Updated assessments were presented at the Ministerial Conferences in Aarhus in 1998 and Kiev in 2003. This is the fourth report in the series. Where possible the report evaluates progress, primarily against the objectives of the Sixth Environment Action Programme of the European Community and the Environment Strategy for Countries of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia. The report has been prepared in close partnership with a range of international organizations, governmental institutions and non governmental organizations across the region.

Successful implementation depends on the setting of clear and realistic targets together with mechanisms to monitor progress. Environmental information across the region still varies in quality, with the availability and reliability of data differing considerably. There is substantial room for further improvement in making much needed data and information not only accessible, but also more comparable and reliable.

Biodiversity decline and loss of ecosystem services continue to be a major concern across the pan European region. In addition, the number of invasive alien species in the region continues to increase. The Kiev Resolution’s overarching target of halting biodiversity loss in the region by 2010 will not be achieved without considerable additional efforts and resources. Communication, education and public awareness programmes, however, are being implemented according to the Kiev Resolution.

The main fact lies is what is our political answer to the prognostications made by our scientific community? Will the Bali Conference effectively handle these issues? Climate Change has become a global issue and needs global response. This was again followed by European Union’s Courageous Commitment to reduce emissions by 20% by 2020. The G8 then called for negotiations on a future climate deal to be concluded by 2009 and at an unprecedented High-Level Event at United Nations Headquarters in New York in September, many World Leaders called for a Breakthrough at Bali on a long term climate change regime. Climate Change has a global impact. Many scientific theories do support the views. Impacts such as intensified drought and rainfall, melting glaciers and rising sea levels, however are helping raise public awareness of climate change and therefore support for politicians to take action. It is also forecasted that Asia would be among the worst affected regions. Projected impacts include an increase of 10 to 20% in tropical cyclone intensity and more frequent heat waves like the one in India in 2002 which killed over 1000 people. Rising sea levels will also threaten millions of Asians, with over half of the population in 21 Asian Countries living in high – risk areas. There need to be four steps to tackle these issues and forecasts:

a)Mitigation: Action to limit or reduce emissions.

b)Adaptation: Putting in place a strategy to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.

c)Technology:Helping countries limit or reduce emissions and adapt to the Impacts of Climate Change.

d)Finance:Generating investment and financial flows which will allow developing countries to act on mitigation and adaptation without harming their primary economic growth and poverty eradication.

The other points that can be kept in mind are: Effective management of our existing forests and biodiversity conservation along with afforestation initiatives. Another important topic is CDM (Clean Development Mechanism), one of the three innovative mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol which offers rich countries the choice of reducing emissions at home or in developing countries, which can benefit both parties. We also need good awareness initiatives for the masses and the media of the World should be on board of the project, so that our POLICIES AND PLANNING reaches to every corner of the World.

More over most important is use of greener technology for effective climate management. Let’s work together 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 the post. Looking forward to your feedback  at   mainak@mainaksworld.com 

Writer:

Mr. Mainak Mazumder

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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