DISASTER MANAGEMENT – A SHIFT FROM REACTIVE TO PROACTIVE LAWS

DISASTER MANAGEMENT – A SHIFT FROM REACTIVE TO PROACTIVE LAWS

Author : Aaron Thomas ,
3rd Year B.A. L.L.B,
 CHRIST ( Deemed to be University)

1.1 Introduction
According to the international disaster management database, disasters have been hitting the world continuously since 1960 and have only dipped in the number in the past decade. There are statistics to prove that in the last decade of the 20thcentury almost 6.7 million people have lost their lives to disasters, accounting for almost 88% of all deaths to disasters. According to the international disaster management database, disasters have been hitting the world continuously since 1960 and have only dipped in the number in the past decade. There are statistics to prove that in the last decade of the 20thcentury almost 6.7 million people have lost their lives to disasters, accounting for almost 88% of all deaths to disasters.
Any disaster, despite the diverse definitions, has a number of common features:
1 . The origin of the damaging process or event is clear and produces characteristic threats
to human life or well-being.
2. The warning time is normally short, i.e. disasters are often known as rapid onset events.
This means they cannot be predicted accurately, even though they occur within a known
disaster zone.
3. Most of the direct losses whether to life or property are suffered
shortly after the event.
4. The exposure to disaster is largely involuntary, mainly because of the location of people
in disaster risk areas, or unplanned expansion or illegal encroachments.
5. The resulting disaster occurs with an intensity that justifies an emergency response, i.e.
the provision of specialized aid to victims. The scale of response can vary from local to
international levels. [1]
Various religions of the world whether it is the ‘Kalpa’ from Hinduism, Noah’s Ark in Christianity or the Safina Nuh in Islam all talk about great actions of Nature or God to cleanse the world of its evil. Natural disasters are an inevitable action or force and since they cannot be prevented but what can be done is to take precautionary measures thus to minimise damage and reduce loss of life among many others[2]. The state must look into efficient measures it can adopt to bring about the objectives of the precautionary measures and thus ensure a safe heaven to all its citizens.
1.2 Increasing Natural Disasters
For Geophysical disasters like volcanoes, earthquakes, rock falls, landslides, and avalanches, there may be no Lear-cut causal relationship between the disaster and
the weather. But,  for climate-related disasters, one can draw direct causal relations between disasters and the weather. These include hydrological events such as floods, storm surges, and coastal flooding, plus meteorological events like storms, tropical cyclones, heat/cold waves, drought, and wildfires.[3]
Another thing that has risen in the recent years are the financial costs incurred by natural disasters. International organizations such as the Red Cross say that, the world’s yearly post-disaster cost is around 65 billion US dollars. Compared that to the four billion spent fifty years ago, adjusted for inflation, and one can realise how expensive preparations have become. Because of our careless abuse of the environment, the number of natural disasters and the cost of cleaning them up will continue to rise[4]. This should sound caution to us.
1.3 REACTIVE VS PROACTIVE Laws
The current state of disaster laws in the country are reactive in nature. The laws existing till date only try to talk about a plan and procedure in the case of a disaster. The established procedure itself is flawed and the researcher will cover the same in the latter part of the ppaer but for now emphasizes on the nature of these laws. This reactive nature is one that puts us on a disadvantageous position. The governemnet post a disaster brings up so many factors. Compensation, insurance, damage to property, loss of life, restoration of the property among many others are the major areas of change that the government looks at.[5]
The researcher through the course of this paper is trying to establish how a shift from reactive to proactive laws would prove beneficial to us in the long run. The quote “ Prevention is better than Cure,” comes to mind when the shift of this nature is being discussed. A reactive law would look into the fact as to what areas are prone to what kind of disasters, what would be the most appropriate measures to safeguard  property and life in the case of a disaster and what developments can be made to the laws to ensure maximum safety and minimum damage. The researcher is also trying to emphhasize on the need for a set of fixed protocol and procedure when the disaster does strike. There must a set procudure as to the firsr responders, the police department, the fire deparment, the CRPF or even the defense personnel if need be and all this must be categorically planned and put down as laws. This would ensure that when  a disaster strikes there would be lesser chaos as if both the people and the government know who to turn to and what action to expect in times of these crises. As of now, whenever a disaster strikes there is complete chaos, there isnt a body that is reponsible or in charge and the police and defense personnel all collude and there is a major ambiguity in roles and responsibilities and ultimately the people are the ones who suffer from this. There also has to be a separate allocation of budget for these times and resources at their disposal. In recent times all we can see is the chief minister setting up funds in all online portals and waiting at the mercy and chairty of others but why should this be when it is the duty of the state to guard and protect life and ensure all means for the same are in play and the people don’t stand at any disadvantage when it comes to their basic natural right.
1.4 Need for Paradigm Shift in Approach to Disaster Management
While the Asia and Pacific region faces 60 percent of the natural disasters occurring in
the world, India is the major disaster-prone country in the region due to its unique geo-climatic conditions. Disasters occur with amazing frequency and while the community at large has adopted itself to these regular occurrences, the economic and social costs continue to mount year after year. The Indian sub-continent
is highly vulnerable to droughts, floods, cyclones and earthquakes, though landslides, avalanches and bush-fires frequently occur in the Himalayan region of Northern India[6]. The decade 1990-2000 has been one of very high disaster losses within the country. In the decade 1 990-2000, an average of about 4,344 people lost their lives and about 30 million people were affected by disasters every year. The loss in terms of private,community and public assets has been astronomical.[7]
India is one of the most flood prone countries in the world, and flood is the most frequent
natural calamity to which the country is exposed to every year in varying degrees. Over 12
percent, i.e. 40 million hectares, of area in the country is prone to floods; out of which 32 million hectares (80 percent) is protectable. Floods occur in almost all river basins of the country, but the nature of the flood problem varies from one river system to the other. The most flood prone basins are those of the Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, the Brahmaputra in Assam, and the Baitarni, the Brahmani, and the Subarnrekha basins in Orissa. As such floods are caused mainly in the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin, which carries 60 percent of the nation’s total river flow. Floods are comparatively less in the South Indian states that don’t need more laws to it.
1.5 Critical Analysis of the bill
The Disaster Management Bill, 2005 will provide a legal vehicle to accelerate disaster mitigation efforts by the public agencies, but the moot question is whether it will help in building a safer and disaster free India. India, traditionally, relief in the wake of a natural disaster has been treated as the primary responsibility of the states. Successive finance commissions have also reiterated this position. Even though the states are primarily responsible for relief activities, the central government associates itself with measures aimed at ameliorating the sufferings of the people on account of natural calamities.  The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), expected to be a mechanism that will come into action every time disaster strikes. Accordingly, legislation is being drafted and a bill has been introduced in the budget session of Parliament.[8]
Where can information on people killed and affected, houses collapsed and damaged, livelihoods lost and displaced, be found? After all an index of the care for victims is to at least know first how many, who and where are these people?
Even though disasters are an issue of national importance, there is little done to take note and keep records of them. Indians are poor record keepers of their presence and persistence. Collecting and cataloguing data on disasters is scanty. One among the charters of the National Disaster Management Institute, New Delhi, is to catalogue data on disasters. However in its decade of existence all that the institute can provide is a statement of people affected by disasters from 1985 to 2001 and a few documentaries. When details were sought, nothing was forth- coming. Since the National Disaster Management Division at the ministry of agriculture was a forerunner to the Disaster Management Institute, a search was made of their annual administrative reports. These provide 17 years of a record of population affected and that too for only two disasters, droughts and floods. What of the other disasters?
     1.     According to the chapter two of the proposed bill the NDMA will be meeting whenever necessary
at such time and place as the PM may think fit. It is not clear why the bill does not specify the minimum number of meetings. To carry out the functions of the NDMA the central government is expected to provide an ad- equate number of officers, consultants, and employees, without specifying the details of the staff requirements and other administrative details.
     2.     According to the bill, the responsibilities of the NDMA include laying down plans and policies for disaster management and approving the national disaster management plans. The NDMA will be assisted by an executive committee of secretaries, which will be responsible to draw up the disaster management plan, coordinate and monitor its implementation. They would also coordinate the response to a disaster under the guidelines of the authority. The government also proposes to put in place a national policy on disaster management to integrate disaster management with development plans.
    3.     As per the bill, the NDMA shall have the responsibility of laying down plans and guidelines for the disaster management. The authority will also have the power approve the national plan for disaster management and approve plans prepared by the ministries or departments in accordance with the national plan. It appears that the bill is expected to ensure measures by the various wings of the central government for prevention and mitigation of the effects of disasters and for undertaking a holistic, coordinated and prompt response to any natural or man-made disaster.
     4.     The bill seeks to establish State Disaster Authorities under the chairpersonship of chief ministers and District Disaster Management Authorities under the chairpersonship of district magistrates. The bill would also facilitate the setting up of a National Disaster Response Force would have nearly 8,000 trained personnel of the central paramilitary forces.
1.6 Integrating Disaster Management with Development Planning
An interesting relation that the researcher tries to bring up is the one with the concept of disaster management and development planning. It is well accepted that our society is already well established and formed and the community we live in, the buildings, the infrastructure, the town planning and the town scapping are already all set up and in full swing. But what about the faults ? What about the disadvantages or the lack in infrastructure that puts us in a disadvantage when it comes to better management of disasters.
The solution to this disadvantage is to incorporate  the ideas and principles of disaster management into our most basic and simplest domestic laws which are namely the town and country planning act, the developmental authority act, the waste disposal act among many others. To uproot the already existings plans and systems in place and establish new ones would be time consuming, economically draining and would cause major chaos and disparity among the people and the government.
To explain this concept with an example, take the city of bangalore, bangalore is governed by the karnataka town planning act, the Bangalore development authority act and many other acts to ensure that the planning and functioning of the city runs smoothly. Now this act has many flaws and many aspects that are not adressed.[9]Now in consonance with the disasster managemnt idealogies if it is found out that a particular type of road planning or a particular type of drainange system or the addition of panic rooms or safe rooms or bunkers in places prone to earthquakes or tsunamis, this will then have to be implemended with the reginal developmental authorities and thus to ensure complete efficiency it is only fit to conclude the essentials of disaster management with development planning is of prime importence.
The researcher through the course of this paper is trying to emphasize on the concept of proactive method of disaster managemt rather than a reactive method and this is what the paper proposes as best for the country and its people. The integration of the disaster management mindset is a step in the above propopsed shift in the laws. The reactive situation has been useful in helping to calculate and ensure that relief measures are deployed but it has never adrresed the issue that something which can be done to prevent the greater danger and this is the objective to the proactive change in laws and this would be economically and socially benefitial to all.
1.7 Recommendations
        •        Frame good macroeconomic policies before and after shocks.
      •        Provision in the budget for emergency spending helps crisis mitigation and resolution, insurance coverage and low public debt bolster government spending flexibility if reconstruction needs arise.
       •        Public investment in risk reduction. Improvement in government policy frameworks to
        better manage risk and mitigate economic and social costs.
     •        Estimate the probability of shocks and identify local vulnerabilities and integrate into plans for contingencies, investing in risk reduction, insurance, self-insurance, and disaster response. [10]
    •        Tax and spending policies need to be flexible, to allow rapid redeployment of spending when needed.
        • Coordination with foreign partners before disaster strikes could mobilize external assistance for risk reduction, which is likely to earn a higher return than emergency help after the fact.
   •  A pro-active stance to reduce the toll of disasters in the country requires a more comprehensive approach that comprises both pre-disaster risk reduction and post-disaster
        recovery.
      •        Such an approach should involve the following set of activities:
      •        Risk analysis to identify the kinds of risks faced by people and development investments as well as their magnitude;
      •        Prevention and mitigation to address the structural sources of vulnerability;
      •        Risk transfer to spread financial risks over time and among different actors;
     •        Emergency preparedness and response to enhance a country’s readiness to cope quickly and effectively with an emergency;
   •    providing emergency preparedness training for librarians, archivists, and museum professionals; [11]
      •        providing disaster response training for conservators to help improve response time and to standardize technical protocols;
   •        providing rapid, on-the-ground responses to stabilize cultural property in times of emergency;
     •        coordinating links between existing national, regional, andstate membership organizations to unify national training and recovery initiatives;
     •        improving salvage protocols for the wide range of media byincreasing national awareness about risks to cultural property from disasters;
      •        developing funding to support ongoing training and disaster response activities.
1.8 CONCLUSION :
Man-made disasters can be contained by our formulated strategies and by new and
developed technologies. We do have strategies to contain natural disasters as well, but we
often fail because we cannot predict the quantum of its occurrence and damage caused.
Natural disasters like floods always strike the severest blow to that section of the society that
is deprived and utterly poor.[12]Employment of adequate beforehand preparation and post-disaster rescue and relief strategies can help in effective culling of the quantum of damage caused, and thus in better disaster management.
Management of floods like that of all other disasters is the responsibility of the state
government, with central government only possessing a supporting role. The main thrust of
managing floods in different river basins was to modify the floods through specific structural
measures such as bandhs, reservoirs, cut-offs, channel improvement, town protection and
river training works, etc. In the eastern UP., large number of marginal embankments has
been constructed as an initial stage flood control measure.[13]
The National Commission on Floods (1980) had laid much emphasis on the significance of the non-structural measures along with the structural measures due to the better cost-benefit ratio of the former, but implementation of the same fails to find much ground. It is
very important that both the structural and non-structural measures are adopted complimentarily. Also, specific structural measures should be adopted in accordance to the geographical, geological and topographical features of the area. [14]
Moreover, only those flood control measures that provide long-term flood control solution can serve as successful preventive measure. Hitherto, the focus of the governmental efforts was on providing relief and rehabilitation services to the victims; but now there is a paradigm shift in the approach of the government with its concentration on prevention and mitigation strategies. At the district level, the responsibility of flood management has been entrusted to the local bodies by the  state government, but on the other hand, they have not been entrusted adequate powers, especially financial powers, to discharge their responsibility effectively.
Any future occurrence of 1998 like floods can be tackled more effectively and mishap
be prevented if we equip ourselves with better plan of action and adopt a few remedial measures.[15]
The only way to meet such a situation is preparedness to face the disaster, i.e. an improved
disaster plan should be prepared for each district for prompt and efficient response with
anticipatory approach to natural disaster and to mitigate its impact by timely rescue, relief and rehabilitation operations; thus helping in avoidance of arbitrary response, mismanagement of resources and overlapping of action by various agencies.
Through capacity building and sensitization of the people community participation should
be encouraged as it is the only long-term solution for communities which are devastated every year by floods. Experiences reveal that it is always the disadvantaged and marginalized
population that is the main victim of natural disasters, and the 1998 flood of the eastern Uttar
Pradesh is a case in point. A disaster only accentuates the problems of a society, which
always existed there even in the pre-disaster phase. Since no disaster management programme can be successful without poverty alleviation programmes, a comprehensive strategy involving poverty amelioration, human development must be adopted into international and domestic laws and ensured adequate changes are made.
Before we have a proper disaster management plan, the coordination work and
monitoring of flood relief should be of very high level as in the want of proper coordination and monitoring even the best plans are bound to fail. Floods and other natural disasters cannot be forecast much successfully due to nature’s own unpredictability. It is, however, much possible to mitigate the disastrous impacts of such events on their occurrence through a high and sound level of preparedness making the society more resilient, a well coordinated and integrated effort on the part of administration, voluntary agencies, media and people themselves during an emergency, alertness by the administration alongwith its well-equipped status, efforts to restore peace and security to the community, and putting the society once again on the pace of sustainable development.

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[1]  Zenaida Delica-Willison, Community-Based Disaster Risk Management: Gaining Ground in Hazard-Prone Communities in Asia, Philippine Sociological Review, Vol. 51 (January-December 2003), pp. 49-64 Published by: Philippine Sociological Society


[2] [2] Challenges in Disaster Management by N. Ramanuja , International Journal of Business from Bharati  Vidya Bhavan’s M. P. Birla Institute of Management, Bengaluru

Vol.9, #1 (2015) pp 05-16


[3] Man versus Mother Nature, Finance & Development, March 2014, Vol. 51, No. 1, Nicole Laframboise and Sebastian Acevedo.

[4]  Anu KapurInsensitive India: Attitudes towards Disaster Prevention and Management, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 40, No. 42 (Oct. 15-21, 2005), pp. 4551-4560, Economic and Political Weekly

[5] Joanne Linnerooth-Bayer, Reinhard Mechler and  Georg Pflug, Refocusing Disaster Aid, Science, New Series, Vol. 309, No. 5737 (Aug. 12, 2005), pp. 1044-1046, American Association for the Advancement of Science

[6]  Anup Saikia, Disaster Unpreparedness in Assam, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 40, No. 24 (Jun. 11-17, 2005), pp. 2389-2391, Economic and Political Weekly

[7]  Aditi Tyagi, NEED FOR PARADIGM SHIFT IN APPROACH TO DISASTER MANAGEMENT, The Indian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 71, No. 1 (JAN. – MAR., 2010), pp. 9-23, Indian Political Science Association

[8]  C. N. Ray, A Note on the Disaster Management Bill, 2005, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 40, No. 47 (Nov. 19-25, 2005), pp. 48774879+4881, Economic and Political Weekly

[9]  S K Swami, presentation as ‘Organisation of Disaster Response in India at Central and State Government Levels’, Annual Conference of Relief Commissioners, 2001. Available at www.ndmindia.ric.in/documents/Disaster Response.ppt.

[10] Challenges in Disaster Management by N. Ramanuja , International Journal of Business from Bharati  Vidya Bhavan’s M. P. Birla Institute of Management, Bengaluru

Vol.9, #1 (2015) pp 05-16

[11]  Randy Silverman, Toward a National Disaster Response Protocol, Libraries & the Cultural Record, Vol. 41, No. 4 (Fall, 2006), pp. 497-511, University of Texas Press

[12]  http://www.unisdr.org/eng/partner-netw.local government/i2-i4Nov2oo8-China/ITCILO-Agenda Chengdu.pdf

[13]  MIHIR R BHATT, Disaster Response Preparedness in India and China, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 47, No. 1 (JANUARY 7, 2012), pp. 25-27, Economic and Political Weekly`

[14]  Duke W. Austin, Preparedness Clusters: A Research Note on the Disaster Readiness of Community-Based Organizations, Sociological Perspectives , Vol. 55, No. 2 (Summer 2012), pp. 383-393

[15]  Aditi Tyagi, GLOBAL AND NATIONAL SCENARIO OF NATURAL DISASTERS: (With special emphasis on Floods), The Indian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 68, No. 4 (OCT. – DEC., 2007), pp. 791808, Indian Political Science Association

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