Private sector must play role in disaster management: Rijiju

New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) The private sector must play its role in disaster management in the country, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said on Monday.

“When disaster strikes, the poor are the first to be affected as factories and plants shut down and the economy is hit,” Rijiju said at the inaugural session of an international conference on “When mountains move and waters rise: The health and housing dimensions”.

“The private sector must pitch in for disaster management in our country. I have asked them and the response has been positive,” he stated.

Organised by the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research (CNESPR) at the Jamia Milia Islamia university here in partnership with the North Eastern Council (NEC), the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) and the National Centre for People’s Action in Disaster Preparedness, the conference is the third edition of a series of conferences called the Eastern Himalaya.

These conferences cover issues, concerns and challenges before a vast region that spans five countries and multiple, diverse landscapes and cultures – Nepal, Bhutan, India, China and Myanmar.

Rijiju said when it came to disasters in the country, there was just reconstruction work and steps were not being taken for disaster prevention.

“I always give importance to awareness among people,” the minister, who is in charge of disaster management in the home ministry, said.

Though the response to disasters like the Manipur earthquake, the Darjeeling landslide, and the Jammu and Kahmir and Chennai floods has been good, much is still needed to be done, he said.

“Our disaster management forces still do not have all the required equipment,” he said.

“The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is the most important international agreement to come up in 10 years. It has provided an institutional mechanism,” Rijiju said.

Endorsed by the UN General Assembly after the 2015 Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, the Sendai Framework is a voluntary, non-binding international agreement which recognises that the state has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders, including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.

Rijiju said India has been given the chance to host the first post-Sendai conference next year.

Stating that he was excited about giving more time to disaster management though the home ministry had many other issues to deal with, Rijiju said: “It is better to be prepared to face disaster than face the brunt and think about rehabilitation later.”

Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla said that India’s northeast was prone to natural disasters like floods and earthquakes.

“It is in Zone 5 of earthquake-prone areas,” he said, adding that soil conservation was important as the region was vulnerable to landslides.

Lal Thanhawla said that civil society and the media can play important roles in disaster risk reduction.

“Stock of medicines and availability of requisite rescue personnel are very important for disaster management in post-event recovery,” he said.

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