International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction 2020

International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction 2020

/ Guest Column / Tuesday, 13 October 2020 17:41

By - N. Munal Meitei

On the last Saturday that people frequently talked about 10-10-2020, a very beautiful rare date, there was a great tremor up to the magnitude of 5.4 Richter scale with epicenter in Churachanpur District Manipur amidst the invasion by COVID-19 pandemic across the world. The International day for Disaster Risk Reduction is celebrated on the 13th October every year and ‘Disaster risk governance’ is the theme for this year. This day aims to promote a global culture of disaster reduction through awareness, education, prediction and warning systems including disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness to reduce the destructive impact on the communities as the natural disasters are becoming a very frequent issue.  
“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. Disasters have created enormous challenges for vulnerable populations such as poor children and more precisely for the differently abled persons who have a barrier that confronts them during disaster situations.
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 states are again at risk from landslides.
National Disaster Management plans the impetus to build a safe and disaster resilient India by developing a holistic, proactive, multi-disaster oriented approach for the peoples like the children and young people, women and girls, differently abled persons, the ageing populations etc. to defend them from the disasters risks. 
North-east India including our 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 the Richter scale in the last 100 years. Manipur was struck with an earthquake of 6.7 on the 4th January 2016 which was 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.
Though the state Govt. has promulgated some guidelines and rules for construction of houses and buildings including the schools, it seems that it is lying only on the papers. Such guidelines and rules should be enforced strictly to save ourselves from the unpredicted natural disasters and be made available in all the social media including Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter etc. for mass knowledge of the common people. In the New Education Policy-2020 also, such guidelines should be compulsorily included as a major subject and then only we can be saved.
Manipur being in a landlocked state, we may not be directly affected by the tropical cyclones arising in Bay of Bengal. However we are vulnerable to associated hazards of cyclonic winds and heavy rains thereby causing frequent flash floods accompanied by blowing away of the houses, trees and electric posts and landslides etc.
We may remind the cyclone Mora during May 2017 causing floods across many parts of the state. It may also remind the tragic incident of Ramrei tourist site or Chadong lake which occurred at around 5pm on the 28 April 2019 when the two boats occupied by many picnickers turned turtle by the cyclone gale in the middle of the lake claiming three lives. Altogether 9 people were also killed in the landslide triggered by incessant rainfall in Tamenglong district on the 11th July 2018. Many more sporadic disaster related incidents with many casualties are reported in Manipur for every now and then. Landslides triggered by cloud burst have become a regular feature in most all the hill districts mainly along the National Highways.
Being a hilly state, flash floods are among the most common and destructive natural hazards causing extensive damage to the economy of the poor farmers in the state. The frequency and intensity of floods has grown in the state over the years primarily because of deforestation in the catchments, unplanned development and increase of encroachments in the flood plains. These demands for better preparedness to make sure that appropriate and effective response measures are taken during disaster emergencies.
Now the question is how much we are prepared and safe from these disasters that may happen anytime and anywhere in the state? The answer is no, we are still yet to be prepared with equipped modern technology and knowledge from time to time.
We are much lacking behind in the field of immediate reliefs to be provided including search, rescue and medical assistance and quick transport of the casualties to the nearest hospitals. Traffic Managements, 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. are yet to be developed.
Presently safe drinking water is an acute challenge facing the state and thus what may happen during disaster is an unanswered question. During the post disaster phase also, many factors such as risk of diseases and epidemics because of water quality, poor sanitation, decaying biological matter, water stagnation, and inadequate shelter and food supplies may arise. The relief camps should have the provision for essential health-care facilities because health and hygiene will be crucial to prevent outbreak of epidemics in the post disaster phase. But again are we prepared for them?
Disasters disrupt progress and destroy the hard-earned fruits, often pushing the development of the nation back for several decades. Therefore to fight back the disasters which are unpredictable and beyond our power, on coming the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction 2020, we all citizens must always be in preparedness and equipped with befitting modern knowledge to minimize the loss in life and property and to safeguard our long earned national developments.
 
***** The writer can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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