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To Do List for Disaster Preparedness

By Malini Shankar
Digital Discourse Foundation

Much remains to be done in the realm of disaster preparedness in South and South East Asia the disaster capital of the world.

Urban planning has to be synchronised with smart city governance; Planning for water security of the weak, vulnerable and including a “polluter pays” component in water security is the need of the hour. In many places in the Emerging economies, ground water depletion implies the fire brigade cannot count on street corner fire extinguishers… a prospect endangering the lives of millions.

Similarly solid waste management is practised more in the breach in urban areas the world over. India has been making a determined progress under the aegis of the Swatch Bharath Mission or Clean India Mission. But enforcement and compliance to waste segregation and sustainable reuse of separated waste needs equal attention. Despite installation of infrastructure for waste separation, segregation by the common citizen is missing under- utilising the installed capacity. What is urgently required is installation of monitoring cameras… it will be a game changer in solid waste management in India. For, if neglected further, danger of polluting the ground water table from toxic landfills makes it a disaster waiting to happen.

Mock drills have to be part of governance and should be held on a monthly basis in every administrative unit of governance world over because no region, state, territory or country is spared any or all disasters. Media has to be proactive and responsible in broadcasting and reporting the mock drills; reporting early warnings for calamities / disasters - if necessary by interrupting routine programming - as is the protocol in New Zealand needs to be replicated globally. Media must refrain from reporting doomsday prophesies lest the significance of the forecast events may be watered down especially those that pertain to leaking intelligence inputs.

Sustainable scalable and replicable green technologies, be they in utilising mangroves and bioshields for creating saline resistant varieties of rice – for food security, or alternate livelihood options by and for stakeholders in Protected Areas are the best guarantor of livelihood security.

Dams reservoirs and coastal levies need to be desilted regularly before monsoons bzw. rainy season to prevent flash flooding. Catchment area conservation is by far the time tested means to prevent flash flooding.

Climate Change Adaptation calls for drought mitigation measures on a war footing. Watershed management, agro forestry, home-grown woodlots and plantations, and planned economic growth are the need of the hour. Agro forestry and watershed management can also mitigate the impact of flash floods … another hydrometeorological disaster. Land use planning and policy needs legislative compliance for effective climate change adaptation. Effective land use policy / planning will go a very long way in water security which should automatically augment climate change adaptation and mitigate hydrometeorological disasters.

India has 7500 kilometres of coastline which are vulnerable to all kinds of hydrometeorological and hydrogeological disasters.

Indonesia has 17408 Islands challenging the Government of the Republic of Indonesia manifold: security, hydrometeorological and hydrogeological calamities, volcanic eruptions inter island shipping disasters, flight and train disasters, highway accidents, human wildlife conflict, terrorism, trafficking, smuggling and poaching, international crime, … however the solutions for Indonesia’s ailments lies in socio economic development: transparent governance, employment generation, livelihood food and water security, human rights, water and sanitation for all.

Transparent governance facilitates early warning, employment generation and livelihood security guarantees security against crime syndicates as well as terrorism, universal water and sanitation offers resilience to disaster refugees, human rights guarantee attracts foreign investment and instils faith in the government adding to its credibility and national power… vindicating the theory that the development quotient in emerging economies guarantees disaster risk reduction.

Sustainable water security needs legislative compliance for usage of herbal detergents for sanitation; and reuse of recycled water for secondary purposes of water consumption augments fresh water conservation.

Construction code needs legislative backing and financial compliance. Soil testing also needs legislative compliance for grant of license to build multi storeyed structures… across South and South East Asia.

Miles to go before we sleep!