NDRP guidelines show how basic things went wrong in 2014
After the devastating flood of September 2014, every one spoke of how the human greed and callousness of successive governments had made Kashmir vulnerable to floods. Unfortunately, we haven’t learnt from the experience and here we are again— flood threat staring us in the face. With the memories of the 2014 deluge refreshed once again, it’s worth looking at the different facets of effective disaster management strategy.
Besides the manpower and machinery, disaster management needs political will, a mindset of preparedness and a systematic approach to handle the crisis. Unfortunately, we are yet to evolve these pre-requisites.
National Disaster Response Plan (NDRP), a document prepared by a high-powered committee on disaster management at the union government level, spells out the mechanism to deal with earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters. Going through the report, one comes to realize what really was amiss when the floodwaters ravaged the Valley in 2014.
The NDRP checklist regarding flood and drainage management is divided into 14 sections. Each section deals with an aspect of human lives which is severely affected in the wake of the floods. The government response to Kashmir floods can be analysed in the light of the NDRP checklist and future strategy can be devised accordingly.
Starting with ‘communication’, there is a need to warn people against areas that are likely to get flooded. In this regard, authorities should assess damage to communication facilities so that the people remain informed about the situation.
Regarding ‘public health and sanitation’, authorities need to assess the advent of infectious diseases and make people aware about preventive measures against epidemics, especially waterborne diseases.
Besides ensuring purity of drinking water, free from contamination, by distributing chlorine tablets, medication for water borne diseases should be provided to people in affected areas. Specialized medical teams should be deputed to handle epidemics, cases of drowning and water borne diseases.
Rationing of existing water supplies can help in even distribution. Marking and isolating contaminated sources before warning people about them is an important precaution to be taken care of.
Under the ‘power’ section, the NDRP document suggests assessment of damage to electric poles and stations due to flooding.
Electricity facilities should be restored after preparing inventory of power installations of flood-hit areas and taking short circuiting safety measures.
Under the ‘transport’ section, NDRP emphasizes on the need to keep boats available in flooded areas since they serve as the main means of transport. In the recent floods, people suffered on account of the severe shortage of boats. The authorities should prepare inventory of transport/water way facilities in different flood prone areas and procure search and rescue boats. Aerial survey for marooned victims followed by dispatching search and rescue boats with deep sea divers can save many lives.
As far as donation is concerned, NDRP suggests compilation of information on specific needs of people before distributing donations by means of air dropping and boats to marooned victims.
Public works and engineering department can play a crucial role by clearing areas for relief camps and roads for easy access. Building temporary bridges for ease of access is also part of the job. Roads and buildings that are likely to cause further damage should be sealed after proper threat assessment. The department should prepare inventory for specialized equipment for building bridges and other temporary structures.
Flood victims should be provided food packs that contain dry and non-perishable food items. Inventory of non-perishable food items should be prepared in advance.
Under the ‘Information and planning’ section, NDRP stresses on dissemination of flood related information after documenting situation reports.
Regarding relief supplies, basic logistic materials including batteries and flash lights need to be provided to victims and rescue workers.
Flood-affected and dislocated people suffer immensely for lack of shelter. The authorities should provide weather resistant shelters for the victims. Shelters should adhere to the climactic conditions. In case of Kashmir, they should be suitable for the cold weather in view of the approaching winters. Inventory of specific type of shelters for floods can help expedite the process.
Media performs the surveillance role on behalf of people warning them about immediate or long-term threats. In case of floods, information on current status should be provided to media personnel so that they can disseminate it to people.
Helplines to provide information on marooned victims and hospitals should be immediately set up in the wake of floods. They can receive messages for victims and forward them to relatives outside disaster area. Emergency phone lines should be set up so that people can contact their near and dear ones. Inventory of emergency phone numbers should be prepared in advance.
These are just some of the things which need to be kept in place in the wake of floods to minimize the damage. The loopholes in the government’s response can be clearly identified here. These crucial gaps should be plugged by ensuring proper implementation of disaster management norms.