It is a good thing that today Disaster Management is a front-line issue for Policy makers, administration and people. But there is a long way to go for us in the field of Disaster Management.
The different types of disasters, natural as well as man-made, are Earthquake, Volcanic Activities, Landslides, Avalanches, Floods, Droughts, Leakage of Hazardous gases, explosions in Plants etc.
In this short text "The Disaster Phenomenon", we are concerned about the disaster Flood, which has been very frequent in the past few years;
Delhi(2016), Chennai (2015), Jammu and Kashmir(2014), Uttarakhand(2013) and frequent flood in the rivers like Kosi(Bihar) and Brahamputra(North east region).
Now one fundamental question we must ask is that what makes these Floods a "Disaster";
(A) the high magnitude of rainfall, which makes the condition out of control of government authorities,
(B) or the under-preparedness of whole society (people and government both) and the high vulnerability of ours which is a result of improper planning.
Let us look at both the angles individually so that later we will be able to draw a bigger and balanced picture. Talking about the high magnitude of rainfall which stuns the local authorities and makes flood a disaster. It is an established fact now that the monsoon from the past few years is showing greater spacial and temporal variability than it used to show before. The main reason behind this phenomenon is "Climate Change". The average increase of temperature since the Industrial Revolution started (after 1750) is about 1 degree Celsius. In the span of 1880-2015, the year of 2015 is recorded as the hottest year. So the abnormal behaviour of monsoon, which is as a result of Climate Change, can only be checked if we take some strong actions in the field of Carbon emissions, Green House Gases emissions, Chloro-Flouro Carbon emissions etc.
The decision taken in the COP21 Paris Summit (December 2015) and INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) document of India submitted in the same conference are a big leap forward in the required direction.
Now let’s talk about the next angle that how floods are turning into disasters by our under-preparedness and high vulnerability. Firstly talking about the Rural Floods;
The concept of human settlements near river banks is an ancient one, it has its own merits and demerits, and the human civilisation have faced these merits and demerits from long time. So citing "Human settlements near river banks" as a reason for huge loss of life and property during rural flood is not fully justified. There are many other factors which increase the vulnerability near river banks, some being Deforestation for industrial land, commercial exploitation by wood enterprises and poorly planned dams and reservoirs.
And it is the duty of government agencies to provide safer housing conditions for the people living near river banks. This can be achieved by placing dams and reservoirs at the right places, stopping deforestation and adopting scientific techniques like Flood Routing etc.
Now talking about the Urban Floods; Urbanization has been a major issue for policy makers, but unfortunately Urban Planning is not the issue which appeals the people in-charge many times. There are many features of urban planning, in which “Drainage” is also one significant feature.
Urban Planning should not be perceived as one time exercise, which should take place before construction. But it should be perceived as long running and continuous exercise. Whenever people start living in an area, after some time that area expands and also become dense at the same time. Urban planners should be very cautious about the direction of expansion and the intensity of density increase, because these activities are responsible for the hampering of drainage characteristics of that area concerned. Hence this post construction and operation period is the time when Urban Planning and Urban Planners have to play an important role.
The main reason behind the Chennai flood (2015) was the construction activities taking place on the wetlands and natural sinks, which helps absorb water. Also the Delhi Flood this year, 2016, is an example of the fact that when abnormal rainfall is accompanied by improper drainage characteristic planning, water gets accumulated on roads and create a flood like condition.
So the final conclusion being that direct interventions are necessary at the level of preventing Climate Change and at the level of Proper Urban Planning, in order to prevent floods as “The Disaster Phenomenon.”