By Y.S. RANA, CHANDIGARH—There is an old saying that it is not the hazards that kill but the ill-preparedness and lack of awareness that converts a hazard into a killer disaster. While Himachal Pradesh falls in Seismic Zone 5 which is defined as a dangerous damage risk zone hence disaster management becomes of paramount importance. Given the indulgence and thrust of the state government in zipping up infrastructure and shoring up awareness standards, it can surely look forward to a perfect future.
While talking to Rajender Rana, Vice-Chairman, State Disaster Management Authority at his office h said that the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) was working on a two-pronged strategy to raise disaster management standards on the one hand and providing necessary skills and training with best infrastructure, on the other. Hopefully, put together these measures would surely help the force to hone their skills, firm up their mental fibre and strengthen their physical ability. Mr Rana also Added that the state was highly prone to natural calamities and suffered heavy loss of lives and property every year hence the State was in a process to revamp it.
He further revealed that earlier the state government had sent a proposal to the central Government for setting up a battalion of NDRF in the State as the nearest battalion of NDRF was based in Bathinda (Punjab). State government was also ready to provide land in Nurpur as per requirements. But due to some practical and technical problems the matter has been shelved, instead the central government has approved setting up of two companies one based in Junga in district Shimla and one at Dharamsala in district Kangra. “Revamp process is high on the priority list of the state government and is at final stages,” said Mr Rana.
Working harder still on the second leg of the strategy, said Mr Rana the Authority has conceived a number of plans and projects for providing best standard infrastructure and equipments to enable it to meet every emergency. He further stated that in a meeting of the authority held on July 14, 2014 it was decided to have our own disaster management force. “Modalities have been worked out and scope of work has been assigned to the State Police to train 30 home guard jawans in every district to meet any eventuality,” says Mr Rana. For this purpose, the Authority has released Rs one crore to purchase necessary hi-tech equipments and to meet training expenses. The Authority has also decided in principle to train SDRF within three months. The force will comprise of 300 personnel consisting of deputationists and new recruits. The authority has also a plan to train NSS, NCC volunteers in disaster management.
Mr Rana further stated that during this monsoon, there were 68 deaths due to heavy rains and maximum deaths occurred in district Chamba and 652 animals were perished. Around 2595 houses and sheds were damaged fully or partially in the State. Till August 16, 2015, there was PWD loss to the tune of Rs 370 crore; loss to irrigation and public health amounted for Rs 172 crore; Rs 16 crore loss to agriculture and Rs 50 crore to horticulture was assessed. The authority immediately reached out to the victims and distributed aids.
He also stated that during last year monsoon, the State has incurred a loss of Rs 832 crore of lives and property compared to Rs 628 crore loss this monsoon. The Central Government had provided only Rs 134 crores.
Recently, the Authority has asked all deputy commissioners to assess the loss to lives and property in their respective district and submitted damage report by August 31, 2015 to the Authority so that a combined report regarding loss of lives and property could be sent to the Central government for release of aids. In the recent past a paradigm shift has taken place from relief centric to holistic and integrated approach to disaster management in the state with emphasis on preparedness and mitigation to minimize losses to lives and property.
Considering the proneness of the state of natural hazards, a broad district-wise vulnerable status has been devised. Vulnerability matrix is based on the qualitative weight age given in the scale of 0.5 for different hazards, says Mr Rana. As per the BIS seismic zoning map five districts of the State, namely Chamba (53.2%) Hamirpur (90.9%), Kangra (98.6%), Kullu (53.1%), Mandi (97.4%) have 53 to 98.6 percent of their area liable to the severest design intensity of MSK IX or more,
“Catastrophes are rare but disaster can strike in many ways in many places, hence the authority should have 360 degree vigil and readiness,” feels Mr Rana