The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has predicted that our country will face a loss of 16,000 lives and Rs 47,000 crore worth of property in floods across the nation in the next ten years as reported by The Times of India. This agency, with PM Modi as the ex-officio chairman, is a government body responsible for issuing guidelines, organising seminars and holding meetings in times of emergencies caused by a disaster.
The National Resilience Index
In 2017, India received much praise from the United Nations in the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction for being the first and only country to have drawn a comprehensive national plan for disaster risk reduction (DRR). India was also praised for having made significant progress in reducing disaster losses. However, as can be seen with the situation in Kerala and Karnataka, it is clear that these plans remain on paper only.
The Home Ministry had recently surveyed 640 districts in the country for risk assessment, creating a National Resilience Index based on the performance of the states and UTs on various DRR measures taken by their respective governments. These measures include risk assessment, risk prevention and mitigation, disaster relief and rehabilitation.
The index, according to Money Control, describes the economic vulnerability of a region and takes into account the steps taken by the administration to decrease the risks. Maharashtra was found to be the most vulnerable state followed by West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, with Delhi being the most vulnerable union territory. The study showed that most of the states needed “considerable improvement” in terms of their resilience to disaster.
Except for Himachal Pradesh, none of the states has conducted the state-specific risk assessments for disaster. Gujarat had the assessment done a decade ago but is yet to update it. The district disaster management plan in Goa was updated two years ago but is still awaiting approval from NDMA.
Floods in Kerala
Kerala is facing the worst flood in almost 100 years, with the death toll crossing 300 and over 7 lakh people displaced, along with about Rs 20,000 crore worth loss of property.
According to The Hindu, the Centre has released interim funds of Rs 500 crore against the state government demand of Rs 2,000 crore, a decision highly criticised by Congress for being too half-hearted in its approach to the disaster.
With the flood water now beginning to recede in Kerala, the state government now faces the monumental tasks of rehabilitation, rebuilding the state, clearing the waste from the flood-hit areas and preventing the disease from spreading in the relief camps.
A similar situation can be seen slowly unfolding in Karnataka, with more than 100 dead and over 5000 displaced, as reported by Moneycontrol. A total of 13 villages have been completely submerged with 845 houses destroyed due to floods after incessant rains since August 14.
CM Kumaraswamy has reviewed the situation in Kodagu and started the relief work, asking why the Centre has not come forward with any help. The state government itself is attracting a lot of criticism, however, after minister HD Revanna, the brother of CM Kumaraswamy was seen throwing packets of biscuits at the flood victims.
Are We Responsible For This Disaster?
Most of the regions in Kerala that have been affected by the floods were classified by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel to be ecologically sensitive zones.
The panel led by Madhav Gadgil, an ecologist and founder of the Centre for Ecological Sciences at IISc, Bangalore, had recommended strong restrictions on mining and quarrying, high-rise constructions and illegal forest land acquisition, as reported by The Scroll. The state government of Kerala however, had rejected the report, refusing to adopt any of its recommendations.
Calling the disaster in Kerala a man-made calamity, Gadgil has blamed quarrying and mining in the state to be the cause of the landslides that were majorly responsible for the deaths in the disaster. His claim has been well supported by various scientists and environmental activists, some even alleging the disaster to be a failure on the part of the state government.
The Logical Indian take
The NDMA survey is truly horrifying. Even in the present situation, we can see the kind of devastation that has been inflicted upon states like Kerala and Karnataka due to calamities. Given this, it is extremely imperative for both the Centre and state governments to formulate plans which make sure that such situation, which in fact crop up almost every year, are controlled and the damage is considerably reduced.