February 2016

ICT to Mitigate Nature’s Fury

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Nature’s-FuryNatural Disasters have seen a recurrent incidence in India. However, governments can certainly take measures to mitigate their devastating impact on life and property, and technology can play a significant role in minimising the impacts of disasters, writes Gautam Debroy of Elets News Network

Whenever a natural disaster takes place, we term it as “God’s fury”, because it is beyond human control. However, a proper use of Information & Communications Technology (ICT) tools can help us give an early indication of such catastrophe and help in minimising the damage. Be it earthquake, flood, drought or tsunami, ICT can surely be used to mitigate all forms of natural disaster.

Manipur Crisis

Recently, Manipur was struck by a 6.7 intensity earthquake, killing at least eight people and injuring hundreds others. Tremors were felt almost in all the north-eastern states, West Bengal and even in neighbouring Bangladesh.

Thanks to the communications technologies, as soon as the earthquake struck W Manipur, information reached the national capital and Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh to take stock of the situation; Union Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha chaired a meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee in Delhi and took stock of relief operations; and the Chief Secretary of Manipur also participated in the meeting through video-conferencing.

Similarly, the Ministry of Home Affairs was also coordinating with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the State Government and the related Central Government departments as well as agencies concerned for providing all necessary help. All this could happen on account of availability of various technology tools.

“As soon as we came to know about the earthquake, we rushed NDRF personnel to Imphal and carried rescued operations. We also asked BSNL to take all steps to maintain the telecom services,” told Union Minister of Development of North Eastern region (DoNER) Jitendra Singh to Elets News Network.

Mitigating Crisis

Well, it’s not that use of technology is new in disaster management or it could fully control such situations. But it is indeed essential that technology is made full use of while firefighting a catastrophic situation. Although ICT cannot prevent disasters from happening, it can certainly come handy for predicting and preparing better to mitigate the crisis.

“Disaster management is the discipline that involves preparing, warning, supporting and rebuilding societies when natural or manmade disasters occur. It is the continuous process through which all individuals, groups and communities manage hazards in an effort to avoid or minimise the impact of disasters,” feels Major General Anurag Gupta, Adviser (Operations & Communication), NDMA.

With a view to handling such adversities better, the Central Government has set up several bodies and authorities, and NDMA is one such crucial body set up under the Disaster Management Act of 2005.

The Government Strategy

Set up under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, consisting of a National Executive Committee (NEC) of Secretaries to assist the Authority, it takes measures for the prevention of disaster, its mitigation and capacity building for better preparedness for dealing with calamitous situations. The authority also acts as a central nodal agency for the states in view of any disaster.

Nature’s-Fury2“Early warning systems, television and radio broadcasting, web portals, long-distance education and telecommunications have also a role to play in disaster mitigation. Typhoons, hurricanes, forest fires, oil spills, tornadoes, tsunamis and other natural disasters that travel distances are by their very nature able to give advance notice to significant populations of potential victims that lie in their path. The need for good early warning systems and signals, and prompt and effective transmission to vulnerable populations is one of the actions that the global community needs to commit to and invest in. Investing in making such information available is worth it compared to the results it can give,” believes Major General Gupta.

Thanks to the availability of various communications technologies, during the recent earthquake in Manipur, the State remained fully connected with the Central Government, other states and the disaster management agencies

5 NATURAL DISASTERS that Hit India in Last 12 Years

Kashmir Floods (2014): A major natural disaster took place in Jammu & Kashmir in September 2014. The heavy and continuous rains lashed the city of Srinagar and caused disastrous floods claiming thousands of lives.

Uttarakhand Flash Floods (2013): It’s hard to forget the havoc created by the killer floods. Heavy and sudden rains in the region caused destructive landslides in the State killing thousands of people, mostly Badrinath- Kedarnath pilgrims.

Bihar Floods (2007): The August flood of 2007 in Bihar was described by the United Nations as the worst flood in the “living memory” of Bihar. The flood affected 19 districts of the State killing hundreds of people and rendering several homeless.

Mumbai Floods (2005): Thousands of people died in the flood that took place in the month of July then. The renowned Film City was severely affected with a large number of people being stranded on the roads and several losing their homes.

The Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004): Occurring in the month of December, it was one of the worst natural disasters in India. It took place when the people were celebrating Christmas on the beaches of southern India. The tsunami raised the Indian Ocean following a major earthquake, which had its epicenter in the ocean bed.

“The 14th Finance Commission has recommended an allocation of Rs.61,220 crore to the State Disaster Relief Fund to all the states, comprising central share as well as state’s share. States can use this allocation for 12 notified natural calamities, viz. avalanche, cyclone, cloudburst, drought, earthquake, tsunami, fire, flood, hailstorm, landslide, pest attack and cold wave/frost. In addition, 10 per cent of the annual fund allocation of the SDRF may be used for localised state-specific natural disasters,” Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said in Parliament.

For the year 2015-16, the allocation in SDRF was Rs.11,081 crore, out of which Rs.8,512.50 crore was the share from the Central Government and Rs.2,568.50 crore was share of the state governments.

“Funds are also being provided in the Ministry of Home Affairs’ budget for NDMA, NDRF, NIDM, Civil Defence & Home Guard and Fire Services, as these institutions are working in the field of disaster management,” he added.

Well, in spite of all such preparedness and attention, disasters do take place causing major damage to the life and property. So, there is a need to keep devising ways on how technology can prove to be a game-changer to mitigate disasters.

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