Developing countries have tended to focus on disaster relief and rehabilitation at the expense of strategies to prevent or mitigate effects of disasters in the first place. To a politician, the political payout from handing out relief materials to the disaster affected appears greater than investing in a national early warning system that may not yield any political reward during his/her tenure. Political expediency coupled with a mix of fatalism, laziness to undertake the hardwork required to implement mitigation/prevention strategies, low valued assigned to human life in developing countries have all contributed to the callous acceptance of natural disasters as a “fact of life.” Hence, the allusion to a “paradigm shift” referred to by the Indian minister, hopefully marks a policy shift rather than just a rhetorical one.
India, others work on region’s first disaster management policy
The Hindu, August 22, 2006
New Delhi, Aug 22. (PTI): India and seven other South Asian countries, which bore the brunt of nature’s fury in an unimaginable proportion in the recent past, came together here on Monday to work on a first-ever policy on disaster management and identify gaps in the existing infrastructure.
The two-day ‘South Asia Policy Dialogue’, organised the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) in collaboration with UNDP, comes in the backdrop of the havoc caused by earthquakes and tsunamis that struck the nations in the region.
Inaugurating the conference, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil said, “Now, things are beginning to change fast. There is a paradigm shift from the past, where relief and rehabilitation were prominent, to a holistic approach which includes prevention, mitigation, relief and rehabilitaiton.”
“The role of the Government is fast changing from just providing exgratia to the survivors to a concerted effort to prevent the disaster,” he said.
Higlighting the need for a comprehensive disaster risk reduction system, Patil said India was losing two per cent of the GDP every year due to natural disasters “When the country was not able to spend so much money for public health”.
He said the challenge faced by the South Asian nations will be to fetch “desired results” from the disaster management related policies.
Besides India, Government officials and NGOs from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are particiapting in the conference.
Delivering the keynote address, TERI Director General R K Pachauri said the region faces an enhanced risk of natural diasters due to increasing population and climatic changes.
The region should play an active role in the mitigation of green house emissions and called for a collaborative research by the South Asian countries on climatic changes, he said.
The conference will be deliberating on the current status and future possibilities of community-based disaster risk mitigation practices.
It is also expected to prepare a roadmap for risk reduction, NIDM Executive Director P G Dhar Chakrabarti said.
In December 2004, the Asian tsunami had hit Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives, Indonesia and Thailand causing immense devastation and killing thousands.
A devastating earthquake in October 2005 had rocked Pakistan and India, killing at least 75,000 people and rendering three million homeless in the Kashmir region alone.