India gets a new plan to reduce damage from disasters

New Delhi, June 1 (IANS) India on Wednesday got its first national plan to manage disasters with an aim to make the country “resilient” to and reduce mortality from deadly calamities with effective management and prevention policies.

The National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP), unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is based on the UN’s Sendai framework, a 15-year blueprint signed last year to reduce deaths and economic losses from disasters the world over.

The plan is based on four priorities as were outlined by the UN framework. These include understanding disaster risk, strengthening disaster risk governance, investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience and enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response during and in the aftermath of a disaster.

“This is the first ever national plan prepared in the country,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said, adding it has a “regional approach…beneficial not only for disaster management but also for development planning”.

The new plan is significant because India is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world and some 200 million Indians are likely to be exposed to natural disasters by 2050 because of rapid urbanization and the extreme weather stemming from climate change, according to a World Bank report.

Many Indian cities recently faced deadly natural calamities including in floods in Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Odisha, Maharashtra and Assam that left thousands of people dead and losses to properties worth billions of rupees.

The key to battle such deadly events depends on an effective preparedness, including early warning systems and strong infrastructure.

The country’s disaster management has always come under the flake despite the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) – in place. But at state-level disaster management and mitigation has always been lax.

The new plan involves all stakeholders including state governments and other government agencies.

It sets out targets that will enable disaster managers to reduce possible damage to infrastructure and any disruptions to basic services, including health and education facilities. It also lays down guidelines to increase access to early warning systems and disaster risk information for the public.

The “vision”, the statement said, is to “make India disaster resilient, achieve substantial disaster risk reduction, and significantly decrease the losses of life, livelihoods, and assets – economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental”.

This will be done by maximizing the disaster-fighting abilities at all levels of administration and the communities, according to the plan that lays stress on a greater need for information, education and communication activities.

It also sets out to reduce disaster risk by mainstreaming its requirements into the overall developmental plans.

“The NDMP is a dynamic document in the sense that it will be periodically improved keeping up with the emerging global best practices and knowledge bases in disaster management,” a home ministry statement said.

Experts hailed the plan as a leap forward with stress on protecting people and properties. But some appeared cynical about its proper implementation.

“It is good. But the key lies in its implementation. Its effectiveness will be determined by its implementation and not what lies in the blueprint,” said Mahesh Upadhyay, a disaster management expert, who has on many occasions consulted with the NDMA.

–IANS

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