Disaster Management

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The selfless bounty of nature is a gift to mankind and an eternal source of sustenance. For centuries though, Mother Nature has been combining its gifts with its often-inexplicable moods of destruction and fury. Time and again, we see the terrible toll that natural disasters inflict on vulnerable communities around the world. Over the recent decades there has been an alarming increase in the occurrence of natural disasters and the magnitude of their social, economic and environmental impacts. This extensive damage to lives, property and livelihood of the affected communities has turned back the development clock of the areas by decades. India with its vast population & unique geo-physical characteristics is one of the world’s most ‘disaster-prone’ countries. Natural hazards such as cyclones, earthquakes, drought, floods or landslides occur in different parts of India in varying intensity. Incalculable emotional, economical and ecological toll of Malpa landslide of 1998, Orissa Super Cyclone of October 1999, Gujrat Earthquake of 2001, monstrous Tsunami hitting India in December 2004, etc still haunt us.

While we cannot prevent hazards form happening, we can certainly reduce its intensity, impact and magnitude of destruction through individual and collective actions to spread knowledge/awareness about its causes-effects and adequate mitigation and preparedness measures. Knowing about the areas that are most likely to be hit by hazards is the first step towards preparedness. Disaster Management involves the range of activities designed to mitigate the effects of disasters and emergency situations and to provide a framework for helping people at-risk to avoid or recover from the impact of the disaster. Managing disasters includes steps to be taken prior to, during, and after the disaster, and involve preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery. Earthquakes are caused by sudden trembling or shaking movement of earth’s crust. 233 out of 597 districts particularly in Himalayan belt in India fall in seismic zones 3, 4 and 5. Most of the damage is caused not by the earthquake itself, but by the buildings. Earthquake vibrations last longer and are of greater impact in unconsolidated surface material, such as poorly compacted fill (loose soil) or river deposits; bedrock areas receive fewer effects. Hence, flexible structures built on bedrock are generally more resistant to earthquake damage than rigid structures built on loose soil. Cyclone: Indian Ocean is one of the six major cyclone-prone regions of the world. A cyclone is marked by devastating winds. It can snap telephone or electricity poles like matchsticks, leaving the telecommunication network in shambles and plaguing the area with power breakdowns with little prospects of early restoration of supply. However, most casualties are caused by coastal inundation by tidal waves and storm surges. The rise in water level caused by a storm surge can cause severe flooding in coastal areas, particularly when this surge coincides with the normal high-tide. Further deforestation and encroachment of coastal forests (which act as natural wind and water barriers, shielding the coastal communities from the destructive power of cyclones and storm surge) by paddy cultivators, prawn farmers, etc. has left no impediment between the sea and habitations. A flood occurs when water flows or rises above and beyond its normal place or course which is mostly a result of a river overflowing its channel capacity. Sediment deposition or silting of riverbeds and the synchronization of river floods with sea tides compound the problem of floods in the coastal plains. The most flood-prone areas are the Brahmaputra, Ganga and Meghana basins in the Indo-Gangetic-Brahmaputra plains in north and Northeast India, which carry 60 percent of the nation’s total river flow. In India it is spread over 15 states and about 47 per cent of India’s population resides in the basin. Drought, an after-effect of...
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