Expressing concern over the natural disaster in Uttarakhand, which left behind a trail of death and destruction, National Disaster Management Authority member Vinod Kumar Duggal has said that the need of the hour was to come up with early warning systems and preparedness to deal with situations of such magnitude.

Charing a day-long national workshop on “Uttarakhand Disaster 2013: Lessons Learnt” at the National Institute of Disaster Management here on Monday, Mr. Duggal said whenever natural calamity strikes any part of the country there is a need to involve only those agencies which could do the job without suffering any casualties in the process themselves.

“When disaster struck Uttarakhand in June this year, multiple agencies like the Army, Indo Tibetan Border Police, State police and administration undertook massive relief operation. Ex-servicemen hailing from Uttarakhand and National Cadet Corps were not involved. We did not want to involve too many agencies because it would have resulted in chaos and confusion. People from various organisations from across the country would have descended on the State but it was important to see the logistics involved in such operations.”

Noting that lessons have to be learnt from such disasters, Mr. Duggal said if the Kangra earthquake, which occurred in 1905, was to happen today then a million lives could be lost.

“So, we studied the disaster and came up with preparedness to deal with an earthquake of similar magnitude in the Himalayan State. Similarly, we studied the Shillong earthquake of 1897 and came up with preparedness to deal with natural calamity in the North-Eastern States.”

NIDM professor and Head of its Geo Hazards Division Chandan Ghosh recently led a five-member team of NIDM to Uttarakhand on a study trip to set up a system which would alert the local population about any impending natural disaster.

He said whenever such disasters occur it is important to have a mechanism so that there is proper coordination of all national organisations towards reconstruction and rehabilitation.

“We have to look after the procurement, storage and distribution of relief items. The costs and burden of disasters as well as the benefits of risk reduction measures should be shared equitably. This means we have to give attention to the most vulnerable individuals and communities.”

Pointing out that the Himalayas have become fragile because of deforestation, Prof. Ghosh said that because of this the terrain faces landslide and rainfall. “We have to review weather forecast.”

Describing the Uttarakhand disaster as a natural war, Lieutenant-General N.S. Bawa, General Officer Commanding, Uttar Bharat Area, said the tragedy was a litmus test for the entire country as all the countries were watching how the operations were being handled.

“I am stationed at Bareilly but when the disaster struck the State, I rushed to Dehradun without any written instruction. The Army had a meeting in May on standard operation procedure but we had not visualised that such a disaster would strike Uttarakhand.”

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