Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Train for a role in

For a calamity-prone country like India, training personnel in disaster management is the need of the hour, writes Usha Albuquerque

Disaster management training is useful not only for NGOs, social workers and volunteers providing rehabilitation measures during calamities, but also for scientists, meteorologists, environmentalists, and personnel of paramilitary organisations. It can be valuable for many commercial organisations too.

The devastation witnessed in the recent tsunami is a grim reminder that spending money on disaster planning and control now can help cut relief and rebuilding costs later. Reuters photos

Numbers of the dead in the recent tsunami tragedy: 1,50,000 and still counting.

A short span of time on December 26, 2004, changed the lives of millions of people in Asia. The mind boggles to even think that one natural disaster could play such havoc with human lives. But each year, natural disasters take a heavy toll of human life and property.

Every year, at least four cyclones of varying intensity hit parts of India's nearly 8,000-km-long coastline. About 60 per cent of India's landmass lies in the earthquake belt-the Uttarkashi earthquake killed about a thousand people, around 10,000 died in Latur and almost 20,000 in Gujarat. Millions are affected by floods and droughts each year.


Prevention and planning

Across the world but more especially in India, disasters have devastating results due to inadequate preparation. Since natural calamities tend to be unavoidable and earthquakes unpredictable, efforts have to be made to withstand the aftermath of catastrophes.

This awareness has led to a more proactive approach to handling of natural calamities, and the launch of disaster management programmes.

Disaster management is a wide term that covers all aspects of planning for prevention, control and response to disasters of any kind. This includes creating a sense of preparedness for prevention or mitigating the fallout of a disaster, as well as the recovery after the disaster, reconstruction and risk management.

While natural calamities cannot be prevented, efforts can be made to ensure that the loss of life and property is minimal. We also need the support of scientific personnel to provide the information and knowledge to forewarn us of impending calamities.

As is being reported about the tsunami disaster: had the warning signs of the earthquake in Indonesia been taken seriously, people in vulnerable areas could have been evacuated.


Crisis control

Disaster management is also relevant to man-made disasters, such as terrorist attacks, riots, fires (remember the horrific Uphaar fire, or the Kumbh mela stampede?)--disaster management can certainly help avoid such situations.

With the need for growing disaster awareness, the CBSE intends to sensitise students in senior classes to disaster management through classroom lectures, group discussions, area surveys, risk assessment and even mock exercises to cover a daily drill.

The National Centre for Disaster Management (NCDM) at the Indian Institute of Public Administration is the nodal agency coordinating the relief and rehabilitation measures during natural calamities.


IGNOU initiative

Some universities and institutes have started courses in disaster management. IGNOU was the first to offer a six-month certificate course in disaster management for plus two students. The programme is offered through distance mode and provides students with information on disasters - the causes and effects; factors, significance, disaster preparedness; prevention; mitigation; relief; reconstruction and rehabilitation. In addition, IGNOU also offers a comprehensive programme on community awareness in disaster preparedness.

The PRT Institute of Post Graduate Environmental Education and Research, Maidangarhi Marg, New Delhi, in association with Barkatullah Vishwavidyalaya, Bhopal, offers a two-year Master's in Disaster Control to graduates or working professionals through distance learning. The institute is engaged in training, research and consultancy in the areas of disaster management, risk analysis, sustainable development, environmental impact assessment, pollution control and monitoring with the idea of optimal development of a global sustainable society. The institute, in association with the Sikkim Manipal University of Health, Medical and Technological Sciences, Gangtok, also offers a Master's in Disaster Mitigation for graduates in any discipline. Disaster mitigation includes activities that prevent a disaster and reduce the chance of a calamitous event, or lessen their damaging effects.


Quake queries

The Centre for Disaster Management (CDM) was set up at Yashada (Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration), Pune, soon after the Latur earthquake. The Yashada Training academy trains governmental and NGO employees in public administration, rural development, environment, disaster management and informatics. Training programmes on Management of Earthquakes, Workshop on Community Participation in Disaster Management, and allied topics are conducted at the CDM periodically.


Beyond Bhopal

The Disaster Management Institute at Bhopal established by the MP Government in the backdrop of the Bhopal gas tragedy, offers training, research and consultancy services on subjects related to prevention, mitigation and management of disasters. It organises training for working managers and government officials relating to the areas of management of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, drought, famine and cyclones; on-site and off-site emergency planning; risk analysis and identification of major hazards.

The National Civil Defence College, Nagpur, also conducts various courses in Civil Defence and Disaster Relief Management.

Disaster management training is useful not only for NGOs, social workers, and volunteers providing support and rehabilitation measures during calamities, but also for personnel of paramilitary organisations, scientists, meteorologists, and environmentalists. It can be valuable for many commercial organisations too. It provides the much-needed skills for crisis management and control. It can also be useful for those going into rural development or working with NGOs and international agencies working in relief areas.

Disaster management is as yet a new field and will take some years to evolve and get established. But in a country so prone to calamities, it is the need of the hour. Disaster management education enables professionals to apply managerial skills and planning in the prevention, control and management of any disaster.


The writer is a noted career expert