By - N. Munal Meitei
“We cannot stop natural disasters but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn’t have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness,” once said by Petra Nemcova. The International day for Disaster Risk Reduction is celebrated on the 13th October every year. This day aims to promote a global culture of disaster reduction such as awareness, education, prediction and warning system including disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness to reduce the destructive impact on the communities as the natural disasters are becoming a very frequent issue.
Disasters have created enormous challenges for vulnerable population such as differently abled persons who are at the highest risk as there is a barrier that confront them during disaster situations. It should be our topmost commitment to strengthen the institutions, structures and systems to provide the differently abled persons with an effective participation and their priorities during and after disasters and emergencies.
India is exposed to multiple disasters which jeopardise the quality of life of the people. About 58.6% of the Indian landmass is prone to earthquakes from moderate to very high intensity; over 40 million hectares i.e. 12 % of land is prone to floods and river erosion; of the 7,516 km long coastline, close to 5,700 km is prone to cyclones and tsunamis; 68% of the cultivable area is vulnerable to drought and maximum of the hilly areas are again at risk from landslides.
National Disaster Management plan gives the impetus to build a safe and disaster resilient India by developing a holistic, proactive, multi-disaster oriented approach for the different group of peoples like children and young people, women and girls, differently abled persons, the ageing populations etc. to defend them from the disasters risks.
A disaster refers to a catastrophe that may be with natural or artificial causes. The unpredictable sudden occurrence of earthquake, volcano, tsunami, cyclone, flood and famine may be termed as the natural disaster. The artificial or man-made disasters may include war, terrorism, band & blockade, bomb blast, mob violence, deforestation, pollution, air or train accidents, fire and other damages caused by the human’s negligence and acts. In Manipur, frequent band & blockades, and provoke mob violence are also social disasters which we should oath not to repeat anymore in future.
The North-east including Manipur is located in earthquake Zone V- “very severe intensity zone.” The region has experienced at least 18 severe earthquakes measuring up to 7 on Richter scale in the last 100 years. Manipur was struck with an earthquake of 6.7 on the 4th January 2016 which being one of the most damaging earthquakes since 1880 and 1939. At least 11 people were killed and around 200 others were injured and numerous structures were also damaged.
We are happy to learn that the Govt. recently promulgated some guidelines and Rules for construction of houses and buildings including the school buildings in the state. Such guidelines and Rules should be formulated in segregation for all forms of disasters separately and it should be abundantly available in all the print and electronic media including the, WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter etc. for mass knowledge. Our school curriculums also should be compulsorily included with disaster management lessons. If such guidelines are strictly followed by every one of us then many important lives could be saved.
Manipur is a landlocked state and therefore is not affected directly by tropical cyclones arising in Bay of Bengal. However it is vulnerable to associated hazards of cyclonic winds and heavy rains thereby causing frequent flash flood accompanied by blowing away of the houses, trees and electric posts etc.
In Manipur, the cyclone Mora during the last week of May 2017 caused floods across many parts of the state. It may be reminded that the tragic incident of Ramrei tourist site or Chadong lake which occurred around 5pm on 28 April 2019 when the two boats occupied by many picnickers turned turtle by the cyclone gale in the middle of the lake. Around 100 rescuers from National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), Fire Department and team from MU Earth Sciences Department were in the search operation for the 3 missing persons but all the victims were fished out death.
Altogether 9 people were killed in the landslide triggered by incessant rainfall in Tamenglong district on 11th July 2018 and all of bodies retrieved from inside the mud and debris. Many more sporadic disaster related incidents with casualties are reported in Manipur for every now and then. Last year there was flash flood in almost all districts of Manipur and this year again we are facing the intensive agricultural drought threatening for a famine in the next year. The situation as of now is not favourable as the soil moisture and rainfall are inadequate to support for a healthy crop.
Landslides triggered by cloud burst have become a regular feature in most of the hill districts of Manipur mainly along the National Highways. Now the question is how much we are prepared and safe from these disasters that may happened anytime and anywhere in Manipur? The answer is no, and to save ourselves, we still are yet to be always in preparedness with equipped knowledge from time to time.
Normally when there is a depression over the Bay of Bengal as per the past records it takes about 48 to 72 hours for the aftereffect to reach our state. Thus accordingly, to make alert forecasting is generally the responsibility of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) to the state and the Relief Commissioner is again responsible for disseminating the warnings to the public and the line departments in advance as per the gravity of adverseness of weather.
Floods are among the most common and destructive natural hazards causing extensive damage to infrastructure, public and private services, environment and economy in the state. Recurring flood losses handicap the economic development of the state. The frequency and intensity of floods has grown in the state over the years primarily because of the unplanned development and increased encroachment of flood plains. This demands better flood preparedness to make sure that appropriate and effective response measures are taken during flood emergency.
Immediate relief is to be provided to all the affected population including search, rescue and medical assistance and quick transport of the casualties to the nearest hospitals. Traffic Management with check-posts from thieves, establishment of temporary shelters for evacuees and ensuring provision of essential services such as medicines, food, clothing, drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, lighting arrangements etc. should be made available. All the Govt. departments also should be always ready for the enforcement.
Water supply is invariably affected in natural disasters. Availability of safe drinking water is a challenging particularly during the floods. During post disaster phase many factors increase the risk of diseases and epidemics because of overcrowding, inadequate quantity and quality of water, poor environmental and sanitary conditions, decaying biological matter, water stagnation, inadequate shelter and food supplies. There should be adequate supply of medicines, disinfectants, fumigants etc. to check outbreak of epidemics.
The people affected by the disaster shall be provided with sufficient clothing, blankets and utensils etc. to ensure their safety and well-being. In case of flood, a large number of people are rendered homeless. In such situations shelter becomes a critical factor for survival and safety. The affected households should be provided with necessary tools, equipment and materials for repair, reconstruction and maintenance of their shelter. The relief camps should have adequate provision of all essential health-care facilities. Health and hygiene services are crucial to prevent an outbreak of epidemics in post disaster phase.
Disasters disrupt progress and destroy the hard-earned fruits, often pushing the development of the nation in back for several decades. Therefore to fight back the disasters which are unpredictable and beyond our power, we all citizens must be always in preparedness and equipped with befitting knowledge to minimize the loss in life and property and to safeguard our long gained national developments.