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GS-III :

India needs to invest in regional disaster relief mechanisms

  • 14 September, 2020

  • 10 Min Read

India needs to invest in regional disaster relief mechanisms

Context

  • Recently, Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and Navy conducted a disaster relief operation wherein they doused the fire on a crude carrier, rescued crew members, and prevented an oil spill.
  • Historically, a key feature of India’s humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) strategy has been the emphasis on bilateral engagement with the affected country.
  • However, recently India's response was initiated through a regional framework (South Asian Cooperative for Environment Protection (SACEP)) for addressing environmental emergencies in the South Asian region.
  • While this is a commendable initiative, there is still a long way to go towards building an effective regional disaster relief mechanism. Moreover, humanitarian emergencies due to climate uncertainty, in the South Asian region (SAR) are poised to grow.
  • In this context, India being a responsible regional power, should invest in regional frameworks for disaster management and take the lead in setting up a road map for greater cooperation.

South Asian Regional Disaster Relief Mechanism

  • South Asia is exposed to a variety of hazards due to the geo-climatic characteristics of the region.
  • These hazards range earthquakes in the Himalayas, droughts and floods in the Plains, and cyclones in coastal areas that originate in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
  • But more importantly, many countries in the region share common geological formations (Indian sub-continent) and river basins, and natural hazards frequently transcend national boundaries.

Hazards in South Asian Region:

1. Climate change and monsoon

  • The monsoon carries more than 70% of South Asia’s annual precipitation in a brief four-month period.
  • A good monsoon brings strong harvests and financial security, but a poorly timed monsoon, can result in human suffering and economic loss due to either flooding or drought.
  • Moreover, cyclones are the second most commonly occurring hazard in the region. Although human vulnerability to cyclones has decreased somewhat, economic losses associated with tropical cyclones have increased.
  • Climate change has a direct effect on the monsoon pattern and cyclones occurrences in SAR.

2. Seismic zones:

  • The world‘s youngest mountain belt, the Himalaya and Hindu Kush, envelopes South Asia all along its northern fringe, from Afghanistan in the west to Bangladesh in the east.
  • With over 600 million people living along the fault line across the Himalayan belt, where the earthquake exposure is very high.
  • In the South Asia Seas region, major population centers live on key fault lines and in coastal areas that are exposed to hazards like Tsunami in 2004.

3. Increasing vulnerability to Hazards:

  • Increasing exposure to hazards are mainly due to the following:
  • Increasing population growth and density in hazard prone areas.
  • Unsustainable economic expansion.
  • Concentration of economic assets in expanding megacities and rapidly growing secondary cities.

Steps taken for South Asian Regional Disaster Relief Mechanisms

1. SAARC

  • SAARC has codified disaster management by adopting the comprehensive framework on disaster management in 2006 and establishing the SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC) as part of its mandate.
  • Also, the SAARC Food Bank was established in 2007.
  • In 2011, SAARC approved the Agreement on South Asia Rapid Response to Natural Disasters (SARRND), which formalised a policy for a cooperative response mechanism in the region.

2. BIMSTEC

  • Under BIMSTEC, India has been leading efforts towards the “Environment and Disaster Management” priority area and established the Bimstec Centre for Weather and Climate as a platform to share information and build capacities on disaster-warning systems.

Issues:

  • Despite having an official policy in the form of SARRND, no SAARC-level contingent has ever been deployed during emergencies in the region.
  • Similarly, in BIMSTEC, although member-countries have shown a willingness to work together on relevant issues, there is a large gap to fill in terms of establishing operating procedures for joint relief campaigns.
  • The traditional approach to disasters in SAR has been to focus on responding to events and reconstructing damaged assets in the aftermath.
  • By and large, the response of the major stakeholders has been reactive rather than proactive, and this approach has resulted in accumulated casualties and economic losses that were higher than necessary.
  • Lack of Coordination.

Way Forward

  • Any effective strategy to manage disaster risk must begin with risk identification of the factors that cause disasters.
  • Inputs should include physical hazard data and localized socioeconomic and demographic data of the region.
  • More specifically, hazard mapping of the region will serve as the base layer of information and provides data on the probability of occurrence and intensity of a hazard event.
  • Once disaster risks have been identified, they must be communicated in a manner that motivates individuals to increase their resilience to disasters.

 

Source: HT

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