Disaster Management Guidelines Overlooked in Uttarakhand

Most of disaster management guidelines overlooked in Uttarakhand; several other states inept as well: ASSOCHAM review, Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Expressing a deep sense of anguish over misery and devastation caused by flash floods in Uttarakhand, ASSOCHAM today said none of the key guidelines by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on flood control and preparedness were implemented by the state government.

It said comprehensive guidelines by NDMA issued in June 2008 are gathering dust with most of the state governments failing to implement the same.

“If only the guidelines like inspection of dams, embankments and other structural measures twice every year before Monsoon and after Monsoon and flash flood forecasting and warning systems were followed, immense misery to human lives and material loss worth several thousand crores of rupees would have been avoided,” the chamber President Rajkumar Dhoot said.DSC03350

 The ASSOCHAM Environment Research Wing reviewed the NDMA guidelines enumerated into 135 pages on flood control and management and found to its dismay and most of these were not even looked at by several state governments, including in Uttarakhand.DSC03408

While the implementation of these norms is to be left to the state, district and local authorities with the water being a state subject, the ASSOCHAM said it is time the NDMA Act of 2005 was reviewed making enforcement of the norms the mandatory requirement – by all the concerned authorities.

“Adequate provisions be provided in the Act to fix the responsibility if only we have to save our country from the natural disasters,” the ASSOCHAM President said. If required, state governments should be asked to formulate their own laws as well to deal with the disaster management so that accountability for serious lapses could be fixed.

In the case of Uttarakhand, the state authorities and the central machinery like the India Meteorological Department must be answerable to the people of the country and the state as to whether the clear cut disaster management norms were followed. For instance an important NDMA guideline related to forecasting and warning systems of flash floods using Doppler radars by IMD. The moot point is were these radars installed by September, 2009 as was mandated in the guidelines, and if yes, did these instruments give the forecast of the Uttarakhand floods.

Likewise, as was mandated, did the Central Water Commission or the National Remote Sensing agency or the state disaster management authority monitor the landslides and blockages, if any, in the rivers with the help of statellite imageries. “If not, what is the use of the norms and rules being framed, if they have to gather dust in government files” the ASSOCHAM asked.

Ironically, a huge loss is caused year after year by floods. According to the assessment done by the Rashtriya Barh Ayog (RBA) of the 40 million hectares being vulnerable to floods, as much 80 per cent of of it (32 million hectares) can be provided with reasonable degree of protection.

Some parts of the country experience sudden heavy rain known as cloud bursts causing flash floods. Hilly areas in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, the northern areas of West Bengal, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura and the coastal areas in the states of West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh,Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep are more prone to such phenomena.

Encroachments into the flood plains over the years have aggravated the flood problem and a need to take effective and sustained FM measures has been felt.