India has always been subject to natural calamities because of its unique geo-climatic circumstances. Floods, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes, and landslides are common occurrences. Approximately 60% of the landmass is vulnerable to earthquakes of varying magnitudes; over 40 million hectares are vulnerable to floods; about 8% of the total area is susceptible to cyclones; and 68% of the region is prone to drought. Every year between 1990 and 2000, an average of 4344 people died, and 30 million people were impacted by disasters. The loss of individual, local, and community assets has been enormous.
The super cyclone in Odisha in October 1999 and the Bhuj earthquake in Gujarat in January 2001 highlighted the need for a multidimensional effort involving diverse scientific, engineering, financial, and social processes; the need for a multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral approach; and the incorporation of risk reduction in development plans and strategies.
Disaster management is an essential part of this country’s policy framework since natural disasters disproportionately impact the poor and underprivileged more in the peripheral regions of the country. Over the last few years, the Government of India has brought about a paradigm shift in disaster management. The new strategy is based on the belief that growth cannot be sustainable unless disaster management is incorporated into the development process.
The approach has been transformed into a National Disaster Framework (roadmap) that includes institutional processes, a disaster prevention plan, an early warning system, disaster mitigation, preparedness and response, and human resource development. This blueprint has been shared with all state and union territories. Government of India Ministries and Departments, as well as State Governments/UT Administrations, have been asked to construct their roadmaps using the national roadmap as a general template.
Odisha, a state in the eastern part of India, is prone to natural disasters. More than ten cyclones have hit Odisha in the last two decades. Since the 1999 Super Cyclone, Odisha has rebuilt its resources to deal with the natural calamities. It has stood tall in adverse situations. With its effective response to natural disasters, the state has emerged as a role model not only for other states but also for foreign countries.
Recently, the government of Odisha announced that the state would develop regional disaster response hubs in four different cities to minimise the disaster response time. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced on October 29 the development of four regional disaster response hubs in Cuttack, Berhampur, Sambalpur, and Rayagada to minimise disaster response time. On the occasion of disaster preparation day, Naveen reaffirmed his government’s ‘zero casualty’ commitment, saying that at least Rs 2,000 crore will be invested in the state to build disaster-resistant infrastructure.
Every year on October 29, Odisha commemorates disaster preparation day, recalling the devastating ‘Super Cyclone’ that hit the state on that day in 1999, killing more than 10,000 people.
While addressing a state-level gathering on the occasion of the disaster preparation day, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said in a recorded video message that resilient infrastructure has always been the government’s top priority. Over Rs 2,000 crore would be invested in disaster-resistant infrastructure. The state government responded fast to the aftermath of the Bahanaga train disaster in June, and many lives have been saved on time. “The government has now decided to establish four regional disaster response hubs in Cuttack, Berhampur, Sambalpur, and Rayagada to reduce response time to any disaster,” he added.
The state government has decided to perform a state-wide risk assessment for natural disasters such as cyclones, floods, landslides, droughts, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Inter-departmental cooperation would be established with the assistance of the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA) to construct infrastructure to withstand all sorts of disasters.
“We remember the precious human lives that were lost during the 1999 Super Cyclone. We have made considerable progress since then in making Odisha safer during natural calamities. We are now a model for other states and countries to emulate. Our efforts to improve disaster management have gained widespread praise. The Centre has awarded Odisha the renowned Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Apadaa Prabandhan Puraskar for 2023,” CM Patnaik added.
According to Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena, Additional Chief Secretary (revenue and disaster management) Satyabrata Sahu, and OSDMA managing director Gyana Das, the state government is working to build community capacity through proper training and participatory disaster management plans at the village, panchayat, block, and district levels. As proposed in the disaster response hub project, disaster management strategies will be developed in over 10,000 vulnerable villages in order to strengthen communities.
The OSDMA has started initiating efforts to train the rescue and response teams on how to handle nuclear, chemical, and radiological disasters effectively. The government has collaborated with the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to teach police, fire, and health authorities about radiation safety, disaster readiness, and response. The state government has also encouraged other states to come up with new initiatives and projects to deal with natural disasters more effectively.
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