International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is celebrated on October 13. The First World Conference on natural disasters in Yokohama, Japan 1994, adopted the guidelines for natural disaster prevention, preparedness and mitigation and confirmed at Kobe, Hyogo, in January 2005. This year's theme, “Fighting Inequality for a Resilient Future” aligns with the Sendai Framework calling to fight inequality for a resilient future to prevent and reduce losses in lives, livelihoods, economies and basic infrastructure. Disasters and inequality are two sides of the same coin.
This day also aims for disaster reduction through awareness, education, prediction and warning systems to reduce the destructive impact on the communities as natural disasters are becoming a very frequent issue. Natural disasters can take many forms, ranging from earthquakes and tsunamis to floods, droughts, cyclones, thunderstorms and insects to COVID-19 and volcanic eruptions to landslides and wildfires.
We cannot predict and stop natural disasters but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives could be saved if there is enough disaster preparedness. Disasters have created enormous challenges for vulnerable populations such as the poor, children and more precisely for the differently abled persons who have a barrier that confronts them during disaster situations.
The world faced a lot from natural disasters. India is exposed to multiple disasters which jeopardize the quality of life of the people. About 58.6 per cent of the Indian landmass is prone to earthquakes from moderate to very high intensity; over 40 million hectares i.e. 12 per cent 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 per cent of the cultivable area is vulnerable to drought and maximum of the hilly states including Manipur are again at risk from landslides.
A large landslide occurred in Tupul railway construction site on the night of 30 June 2022 killing 58, injuring 18 and 3 people still missing. The landslide in Shimla in August, 2023 is one of the deadliest landslides and floods, claiming 88 deaths. In Sikkim due to heavy rains since October 4, 2023, 32 casualties, 122 missing and 41,870 people affected. Storm Biparjoy, Storm Mocha, Balashwor train collision killing 296 people and Ludhiana gas leak are some of the major disasters in India.
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 youths, women, differently abled persons, the ageing populations and animals to defend them from the disasters risks.
Northeast India 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 January 4, 2016, killing 11 and injuring around 200 people which were the most damaging earthquakes since 1880 and 1939.
Manipur being in a land-lock, 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 flash floods accompanied by blowing away of the trees, houses and electric posts and landslides.
Landslides triggered by cloudbursts have become a regular feature along National Highways causing extensive loss to the economy. State is also facing frequent flash floods because of deforestation in the catchments, unplanned development and increase of encroachments in the flood plains.
Though the state government has promulgated some guidelines and rules for construction of houses and buildings including schools, it seems that all are still on the table. Such guidelines and rules should be enforced immediately to save ourselves and be uploaded in social media including WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter etc. for mass knowledge. In the New Education Policy-2020, such disaster management guidelines should be compulsorily included as a major subject and then only we can save ourselves.
Now the question is how much are we prepared for and safe from disasters that may happen anytime and anywhere in the state? The answer is no, we are still yet to be prepared, equipped with modern technologies and knowledge from time to time.
We are much lacking in emergency responses including search, rescue and medical assistance and quick transportation of the casualties to the nearest hospitals. Traffic management, 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.
During post disaster phase, many factors such as risk of diseases and epidemics because of water quality, poor sanitation, decaying biological matter, water stagnation, inadequate shelter and food supplies will arise. With the ongoing communal crisis, we have learnt the present facilities given to the relief camps and hence what will happen during an unpredicted disaster is an answered question. But to prevent outbreak of epidemics, health and hygiene will be the most crucial.
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 control, on coming the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction 2023, we all citizens must take care for our nature and always be prepared and equipped with befitting modern knowledge to minimize the loss in life, property and to safeguard our long earned national developments.