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Living with disability and disasters

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BY: Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit

13th October is celebrated as International  Day for disaster Risk Reduction to bring awareness about the importance of reining in the risks that they face.

“Disaster means catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from nature or man-made causes, or by accident or negligence which result in substantial loss of life, of human suffering or damage to, and destruction of property, or damage to, or degradation of environment, and is of such nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of affected areas.”

According to the statistics, 68% of India’s land is prone to drought, 60% to earthquakes, 12% to floods and 8% to cyclones, making India one of the most disaster prone countries in the world, affecting overall 85% of Indian land and more than 50 million people.

Disaster management is the regulation of dealing with and avoiding risks. It involves preparing for a disaster before it happens. Every year, we experience some natural disaster but we have no strategy to alleviate its effects.

Natural disasters are no doubt, beyond human control. It is observed that from the natural calamities happening  we haven’t learnt lessons from them. Damage to the ecology wreaked by deforestation and construction of dams has been the core cause of such a massive disaster. India is becoming a breeding ground for natural calamities and it is high time that we formulated some plans to go green in the country by reducing mounting pollutants.

Business interruptions can occur anywhere and at anytime. It is impossible to predict what may strike when and therefore it has become binding to prepare for such disaster scenarios. Disaster risk management is a critical, if couched, factor in daily decision – making. A variety of risk financing and other financial tools have been developed to facilitate management of risks.

A disaster disrupts business activities on which the local population depends, affecting livelihood recovery and means to earn a living. This is particularly true when new skills are needed for new types of jobs.

Stout financing tools can help the poor to break the poverty cycle by protecting their development gains, reducing impacts and losses of disaster shocks.

It is observed that risks from injury, sickness or disaster are a critical dimension of poverty and can easily threaten the small savings and fragile livelihoods of poor families.

There should be systematic resort to “disaster drills” to educate the public on what to do during an earthquake. Preparedness is the key to managing any more such disasters.

Although a 2005 law on disaster management has been put into effect at the national level, it exists only on paper in a few states and districts. A national disaster response force was also formed for rescue and evacuation.

It is an unfortunate reality in the age of highly hazardous industry that accidents are bound to happen. It is however the responsibility of all sectors of society to ensure that we are prepared to cope with the aftermath. Disaster management is like breathing, if you don’t continue with it, you die.

Disaster Management starts with ‘D’ but begins with ‘YOU’. If we need to change anything, it has to start from our home. As we know that our family may not be together when all off a sudden a disaster strikes, it is important to create a plan in advance. One must find reliable information sources, warning systems and alert systems in advance. Family communication is one of the most important. 

We may have to evacuate at a moment’s notice and take essentials with us as we will have no time to search for the supplies we need or shop for them.  Disaster can take place anywhere and at any time.  It is important to know what to do and have a plan before a disaster strikes.

Disaster preparedness measures can significantly reduce the shock of disasters on people’s lives, livelihoods and assets. It is therefore necessary that to survive the disaster, every family must take responsibility for their own disaster preparedness from Home itself. People talk about business continuity plan during a disaster, natural disaster insurance, socio-economic effects of a disaster, the preparedness on the national level, and so on.

We all know that it is impossible to avoid disasters, but it isn’t impossible to plan ahead of time so that we can minimize the impact that any given disaster might have on us or on our family’s health, safety and property. One must remember that the future belongs to those who prepare.

The biggest concern is the attitude of policy makers, implementers and local government towards investing in people-oriented preparedness at different levels. There is a growing need to look at disasters from a development perspective.

Disasters can have devastating effect on communities and can significantly set back development efforts to a great extent. Disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness and relief are four elements, which contribute to and gain from the implementation of sustainable development.

The need of the hour is to chalk out a multi-pronged strategy for total disaster management comprising prevention, preparedness, response and recovery on the one hand and initiate development efforts aimed towards risk reduction and mitigation on the other cities.

For India, preparedness will have to begin with the updating of construction norms for quake-proofing. Then, inspection of all construction, old and new, must be made a priority to check for adherence. In old buildings, measures to address vulnerability, such as retro-fitting with steel structures, have to be implemented compulsorily. Lessening the potential damage, as much as responding to a disaster, needs to be part of India’s disaster management strategy.

We need to accept earthquakes as a reality and do everything in our power to redefine development plans, especially in terms of building quake-resistant buildings. There should be systematic resort to “disaster drills” to educate the public on what to do during an earthquake. Preparedness is the key to managing any more such disasters.

There have been many cases where there has been a relief and rescue mobilization but by the time the teams reach the damage would have already been done. Disasters are episodic but are recurrent. Therefore, it is rightly said that “Those who work the Disaster Management way, live to work another day.

Safety is a race we can all win. Preparedness is the only key to the success of Disaster Management Plan and without citizens’ involvement and participation any effective plan is rendered ineffective.

(The author hails from Jodhpur Tekra, Ahmedabad)














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