Saturday, August 24, 2013

New report calls for a ‘fundamental shift’ in disaster management practices in India.

24 08 2013

 

 
‘India Disasters Report II: Redefining disasters’being launched in New Delhi today.
 
“India faces the omnipresent reality of disaster vulnerability due to natural causes and human interventions, including developmental initiatives” observes India Disasters Report II- Redefining Disasters (IDR II).
 
IDR II, an Oxford University Press (OUP) publication, being launched in New Delhi today, comes in the context of people in Uttarakhand recovering from the recent floods. The report cautions that some of the current development practices “tend to put at risk the safety of local communities, the sustainability of their habitat, and their livelihoods, and at times even cause displacement”.
 
“Addressing disaster vulnerabilities caused by human factors is the best bet to reduce disaster risks and human suffering,” said the editors, while addressing a press conference in New Delhi today. Dr. Prannoy Roy, eminent media personality and Founder and Executive Chairperson, NDTV, is launching the report today at a function at Nehru Memorial Library, Tin Murti, New Delhi. To mark the event, TISS and OUP are organising a panel discussion of eminent academics, UN and government representatives and the editors of IDR II.
 
IDR II takes a fresh look at disasters from different vantage points. It is written by academics, humanitarian workers, scientists, engineers, journalists and analysts.  It is edited by Prof. S. Parasuraman, Director of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, and Dr. Unni Krishnan, Head of Disaster Response, Plan International, London.
 
 “A holistic view and long-term efforts are necessary to address disasters” said Prof. Parasuraman. “Capacity building at the community level and investments that will strike at the roots of poverty are paramount”, he said. The report calls to include disaster risk reduction and preparedness work at the community level as ingredients of large government initiatives such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
 
“In the context of recurring disasters in India, pre-disaster, disaster and post-disaster situations are inseparable” said Dr Krishnan. “We may not be able to stop an earthquake. But we can very well reduce their impacts and minimise deaths and sufferings”. The report calls to strengthen disaster preparedness measures and strictly implement building safety codes. “We need to build a culture of ‘zero tolerance’ towards safety and disaster management issues” he said.
 
The report makes the case that disasters are not just sudden interruptions of normal life, but cumulative outcomes of complex processes, sometimes accentuated by dramatic events and even policies- thus calling for multi disciplinary approaches to minimize risks and reduce human sufferings.
 
This report is a sequel to India Disaster Report: Towards a policy initiative. Published in 2000 by the Oxford University Press, that report worked as a catalyst to generate an informed debate about disaster management and galvanised public opinion to demand a disaster management policy for India. Indian government passed the Disaster Management Act in 2005.
India Disasters Report II: Redefining Disasters:
·      emphasizes the importance of understanding the concept of natural, technological, and human-made disasters in shaping policy, practice, and research
·      addresses diverse issues like vulnerability, development, environment, gender, health, information, communication, and technology in disasters;
·      explores disasters in India, and policies and administrative set-ups for disaster management; and
·      discusses disasters as an outcome of processes rather than stand-alone events.
Adopting a multidisciplinary approach, this report asserts the need to link natural systems, social systems, and technological limitations to devise policies and action plans for disaster prevention, relief operations, and environmentally inclusive development.
 
Key messages from the report:
 •When we discuss disasters, ‘nature’, human factors, social systems, policies, politics and poverty are inseparable.
 •It is necessary to have constant and long term engagement: In pre disaster, disaster and post disaster settings.
 •Focus on ‘vulnerable groups’ such as children, women, differently abled, aged people, and migrants.
 •Remove poverty: Disaster risk reduction needs to be included as part of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
 •Make schools, hospitals and homes safer: Implement building codes and fire safety norms.
 •Engage children and youth: Make disaster management as part of school and college lessons.
 •Strengthen first responders through community drills and skills training.
 •Build better awareness, early warning and undertake preventive measures. Learn from good examples from Cuba and Bangladesh.
 •Develop and implement better laws against discrimination and rights violation in disaster settings.
 •Media need to play a pro-active role. Social media, information and communication technology can inform, educate and empower.
 
On behalf of TISS and Editors, India Disasters Report II- Redefining Disasters
 
 
Sudarshan Rodriguez
 
Mobile: +91 93104 42441

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