On Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation Measures

On Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation Measures
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Amanullah Khan

Jammu and Kashmir having an area of 222, 236 square kilometers and total population of 12,5482, 926 people, is divided into three regions Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. It lies between latitudes 32º . 17’ to 36º.58’ North and longitudes 73º . 26’ to 80º .26’ East. Jammu and Kashmir borders touch Pakistan in the west, China and Tibet in the north & east and Indian States of Punjab and Himachal in the South. Kashmir North and Kashmir South districts lie in Zone V. Gilgit, Chilas, GilgitWazarat, Muzaffarabad, Punch, Anantnag, Mirapur, Riasi, Udhampur, Jammu, Kathua,Leh, Ladakh and Tribal Territory districts lie in Zone IV.
Owing to a unique geo political and geographical setting, Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed a multitude of disasters. Ranging from local incidents of fires up to catastrophic earthquakes, J & K has always paid heavily in terms of loss of life and property. However, in the absence of reliable records and information thereof, most of the events are either partially reported or exaggerated or even, at times sometimes not recorded at all. The occurrence of natural disasters can’t be stopped but their impact can be reduced. For this purpose there is need to co-operate with each other at all the possible levels- that is sharing of expertise in the respective fields, monitoring and sharing of scientific data related to hazards, co-operation in issuance of warnings about floods, avalanches, landslides, dam breaches and so on.
As far as earthquakes are concerned, all the Himalayan countries are equally likely placed with respect to this disaster. Unfortunately, we do not have any authentic and systematic past records of seismic activities in the entire Himalayan belt except a few fragmentary records of the recent past. There are, at least, four regions of the Himalayas where earthquakes of magnitude 8 or above are likely to occur in the near future. The 2005 earthquake of MW 7.6 has released only 1/10th of the stress generated within the region and remaining has to go in future great earthquakes. The damage occurred in Uri, Kupwara and Baramulla districts in the Kashmir province and in the Poonch town and its surrounding areas are along the Line of Control. This earthquake was the strongest over 120 years in the area. Efforts at all levels need to be taken to ensurewhatever new structures are built are able to withstand future major earthquakes.
In a place like J&K , the major causes of increased vulnerabilities to natural disasters are: unplanned construction (e.g in Choglamsar area of Leh), over and unplanned exploitation of natural resources (for example, Dal Lake or deforestation in Gulmarg), unplanned urban growth, conflicts, weak institutional capacities, and climate variability and change. These emerging trends require that development practice is to be re- oriented so as to make the State more resistant to natural disasters. This new focus explicitly recognizes the links between Early Warning, DisasterRisk Reduction and Sustainable Development.
The Met Centre at Rambagh , Srinagar caters to the meteorological needs of J & K. Any information related to weather and climate or weather related data of J&K can be had from this office. The office functions round the clock for the benefit of the peopleof the State and the Government as a whole.
Early Warning as a tool of Disaster Risk Reduction:
Early warning has the potential to contribute significantly to minimizing losses as an important non-structural component of risk reduction. Early warning plays such a strong role in improving human security because it is one of the most effective measures for reducing negative impacts of threats and risks triggered by natural disastrous events. Early warning and other mitigation interventions are a cost effective way of Disaster Risk Reduction. However , in order to highlight the future needs of the Met observatories in Jammu and Kashmir, the following demands shall be put forth before the administration:
One Doppler Weather Radar in Leh, Jammu and Srinagar and one class 1observatory in each district;
One rain gauge at least in each Tehsil;
One seismological observatory in each district or at least one each in Pulwama,Baramulla and Kargil.
Prudent and Effective Preparedness is Essential for Effective Warning:
It is not sufficient to ensure that appropriate and timely warning reaches target groups; it is also essential that the local population knows how to react and what to do in and during emergencies. This depends on the extent to which warning services are decentralized. Realigning warning systems to addressing community needs implies that warning authorities have to engage communities to know those needs, recognize people’s personal contacts, assess risks and manage public expectations of the warning system. All possible steps should be taken to create awareness among the masses so that they respond quickly.The preparedness component of the early warning of impending disaster shall asfar as possible, be clear, ready and known to end-users. Public knowledge of early warning systems, including response mechanisms, through IEC (Information, Education and Communication) initiatives enhances the success of warning messages. Responses to warnings are most appropriate and effective when the public has received prior educationand sensitization about the hazard and people have worked out a response plan inadvance of the warning. To ensure this, the concerned agencies will need work in close coordination with the IMD, both in Srinagar and Jammu.To be effective, early warning systems will be people centric and shall integrate four elements (i) a knowledge of the risks faced (ii) a technical monitoring and warningservice (iii) quick dissemination of meaningful warnings to those at risk (iv) publicawareness and preparedness to act as otherwise, failure in any one of these elements can mean failure of the whole early warning.

—The author is B.Tech Civil Engineering and M.Tech Transportation Engineering from LPU, Jalandhar. He can be reached at: amanuk653@gmail.com

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