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Disasters don’t come knocking!

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Disasters don’t wait to happen. They happen when one least expects them. Today is International Day for Disaster Reduction. In the past couple of months, the world has seen a series of catastrophes. From earthquakes and hurricanes ravaging the North American and Mexican coasts to coastal rains lashing Eastern India, Bangladesh and Nepal, loss of human and animal life has been tremendous and unforgiving. Due to increasing global warming and melting of polar ice caps, rising sea levels pose a serious threat to many coastal states and countries across the world.

Not just this, incidences of human made accidents too have led to major loss of life and property. The recent spate of train accidents that plagued India in recent memory, from Kaifiyaat Express to the Nagpur-Mumbai Duronto train accidents to the Las Vegas shooting in USA, too has caught the attention of law enforcement and disaster management experts from across the world.

In the face of such disasters, it’s crucial that adequate steps be taken to understand and minimize the damage emerging from these horrific episodes. Some of the steps that can be taken by government agencies and the public to deal with natural and man-made disasters is given below;

  • Strict implementation of building codes and city planning that lay importance on adequate fire and hazard management systems is crucial. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) can be used in this regard. Apart from assessing the extent of land being improperly utilized, it can also lead towards identifying areas where human habitation can be sustainably developed. In Delhi-NCR, if one goes to Chandni Chowk, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the whole market becomes a blazing inferno in the event of a fire outbreak or any major catastrophe. Grid like city construction with neat partitions is key to ensuring sustainable lives for all.
  • Making disaster management drills compulsory as per globally established standards across schools, colleges and companies is much needed. How many of us living close to coastal areas know Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), a life saving measure that can be deployed to revive a nearly drowned person? Very few indeed. On another hand, how many of us know the methods to give first aid to a person whose been bitten by a    cobra? Institutionalization of disaster management is crucial in this regard. Recently, I was reading about a survival programme that was designed by famous adventurer and explorer Bear Grylls that aims at increasing human resilience in the face of a disaster. Can we evolve a similar programme in India that aims at teaching people to survive in the event of a disaster?
  • Making disaster management as part of school and college curriculum riddled with brain-storming sessions, Rapid Fire question-answer rounds and live demonstrations can serve to make young citizens aware of the steps that must be taken in the midst of a potential disaster. Holding technology summits and competitions where young and enthusiastic inventors can come up with solutions to today’s disaster related problems is crucial. By organizing events on the level of Google Science Fairs, that aim to reward innovators for their cool and thought-provoking inventions, can we not create custom-made solutions for disasters that plague our country? Funnily enough most of the winners in the Google Science Fair are Indian-Americans. Can we bring them back home and give them an environment where their efforts will be suitably rewarded and recognized by all?  That’s some food for thought.
  • To avoid man-made disasters, involvement of people from all strata of society to formulate plans is critical. Micro and Macro involvement is crucial. The key to ensuring sustainable livelihoods is to involve people working at the grassroots levels to be a part of the decision making process. If Sunderlal Bahuguna, Medha Patkar and Vandana Shiva, noted environmentalists were and are consulted at every step regarding ecological costs of development and their suggestions implemented rigorously, we can be sure that something like the 2013 Kedarnath Floods doesn’t ever happen again. I know its wishful thinking, but then it’s not un-achievable.

Most of the suggestions given above are ideas that have been devised and formulated but haven’t been adequately implemented. Though they may seem redundant, their effective and timely implementation can serve to make a huge difference.

 

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