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/

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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/