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Disaster is a sudden, calamitous event bringing great damage, loss, and destruction and devastation to life and property. The damage caused by disasters is immeasurable and varies with the geographical location, climate and the type of the earth surface/degree of vulnerability. This influences the mental, socio-economic, political and cultural state of the affected area.

Generally, disaster has the following effects in the concerned areas-
  • It completely disrupts the normal day to day life
  • It negatively influences the emergency systems
  • Normal needs and processes like food, shelter, health, etc. are affected and deteriorate depending on the intensity and severity of the disaster.

Classification of Disaster

Natural Disaster - A natural disaster is a consequence when a natural hazard affects humans and/or the built environment. The human vulnerability and lack of appropriate emergency management system leads to financial, environmental, or human life loss. Various phenomena like earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, floods and cyclones are all natural hazards that kill thousands of people and destroy billions of dollars of habitat and property each year.

Man Made Disaster - Man-made disasters are the consequence of technological or human hazards. Examples include stampedes, fires, transport accidents, industrial accidents, oil spills and nuclear explosions/radiation.

India’s vulnerability to disasters – some facts and figures

  • About 60% of India’s landmass is prone to earthquakes.
  • Over 40 million hectares of land area prone to floods.
  • Nearly 3 lakh square kilometer area is vulnerable to cyclone.
  • The earthquake in Bhuj killed 1400 people.
  • The super cyclone in Odisha killed 10000 people.
  • Betweeb 1990 and 2000 on an average of about 3400 people have lost their lives annually.
  • About three crore people were affected by disasters every year.
  • Nearly 17000 people perished by the Tsunami on 26 December 2004.

Cyclone- Cyclones are one of nature’s responses when there is a meeting between hot and cold air currents. These are circular shaped rotating storms which have huge diameters ranging from 150 to 1000 kilometres. Due to this high speed rotation, an intense low pressure is formed at the centre; this is called the “Eye of the storm”. Cyclones of high intensity are caused mostly in tropical areas. Cyclones are known to cause great devastation to life as well as property.

India’s National Disaster Management Policy

  • The National Policy on Disaster Management (NPDM) has been prepared in tune with and in pursuance of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
  • The policy carries the vision to build a safe and disaster resilient India by developing a holistic, proactive, multi-disaster oriented and technology driven strategy through a culture of prevention, mitigation, preparedness and response.
  • The Policy covers all aspects of disaster management covering institutional, legal and financial arrangements; disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness, techno-legal regime; response, relief and rehabilitation; reconstruction and recovery; capacity development; knowledge management and research and development.
  • It focuses on the areas where action is needed and the institutional mechanism through which this should be implemented.
  • The Disaster Management Act, 2005 enacted by the Parliament was notified in the Gazette of India on 26th December, 2005.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the Central Government has the overall responsibility for disaster management in the country. For a few specific types of disasters the concerned Ministries have the nodal responsibilities for management of the disasters, as under:

Ministry of Agriculture
Epidemics & Biological Disasters
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
Chemical Disasters
Ministry of Environment & Forests
Nuclear Disasters
Ministry of Atomic Energy
Air Accidents
Ministry of Civil Aviation
Railway Accidents
Ministry of Railways

  • The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is the specialized force for disaster response which works under the overall supervision and control of the NDMA.

  • At the State Level the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), headed by the Chief Minister, lays down policies and plans for disaster management in the State.

  • In the district level the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) is headed by the District Magistrate, with the elected representative of the local authority as the Co-Chairperson.

The International Connection

The Government of India is a member of various international organisations in the field of disaster response and relief. Linkages exist with the following organisations:

  • UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), which has been made responsible by UN General Assembly mandate for all international disaster response.
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), responsible for mitigation and prevention aspects of disaster management.
  • UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) System. Streamlining Institutional Arrangements for Disaster Response

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