Disaster management needs to be re-managed

Disaster management needs to be re-managed


The cost of being environmentally `unfriendly’ has been very high, going by the landslide at Thamarassery on Thursday which claimed five lives. The rain fury has left a flood of loss to property and damage to crops across Kerala.

From quarrying to building houses and resorts on hill slopes, there appears to be little governmental control. In the Thamarassery disaster, while local residents blame the construction of a check dam on a private property as the cause, such incidents have become common during every monsoon. And during such calamities, the national disaster management authority is pressed into service and later an assessment of the loss is made. By then in Kerala, blessed with the second monsoon, the next spell of disaster pours down.

There is an urgent need to revisit the `development’ paradigm. The State disaster management authority needs urgent reconstitution, former head of the State disaster management centre KG Thara told PenNews.

In other States, the authority comprises experts in the field of disaster management, including nuclear and chemical. But that is not the case in Kerala where the team at the top has mainly officials, she says.

There have to be steps at capacity-building. The whole system has to be decentralised so that there is sufficient preparedness at the grassroots level. Efforts at building community-based disaster management teams have to be initiated. This should make things easier in case of a crisis and the State will not have to depend on a `team from Thiruvananthapuram or from the Centre’ to rush to the site.

A decentralised system with micro-level planning focussing on areas facing threats has to be developed, she asserts.

In this particular incident at Thamarassery, there is the need to probe whether the construction of the said check dam was constructed after official sanction. There also should be an inquiry into whether the construction was done scientifically, she adds.

Looking beyond disaster management planning, the authorities will have to rein in illegal quarrying, rampant along hillocks. The number of constructions coming up on these regions has to be controlled. It is time the State immediately looked at limiting the number of houses that people can own besides construction in ecologically fragile places, the whole building process calls for materials whose mining and manufacture can be disastrous to the environment.