The flood havoc in Uttarakhand has brought the focus on the need for a full-fledged disaster management centre. .

Officials aver that Mysore is relatively safe from natural calamities, with a cell of 12 members, headed by Rame Gowda, Deputy Commissioner, in place to deal with any eventuality.

Mr. Rame Gowda ruled out any chance of natural calamities in Mysore. He said that Mysore was in a seismically stable zone, according to the geologists, and hence would not be affected by earthquakes. There are no major hazardous industries in or around Mysore that could cause an incident like the Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984.

“We have a rare material plant under the Department of Atomic Energy at Yelwal on the outskirts of the city. Radiation levels are continuously monitored, and so far, there has been no cause for concern,” he said and added that no adverse reactions to the radiation were reported by the local community. The number of members in the Disaster Management Cell is not fixed, to allow the chairman (Deputy Commissioner) the discretion to bring in any expert on an ad hoc basis to help during a crisis. The focus is to reduce the response time for intervention and minimise damage, he added. However, Tirumala Rao, a consumer activist, has a different opinion. “A voluminous report was submitted to the government, recommending the constitution of a full-fledged disaster management centre. The centre would be able to train resource persons and the public. This was submitted after the Gujarat earthquake in 2001, but no action was taken,” he said.According to Mr. Rame Gowda, substantial progress has been made since 2001, and the district administration is geared up to handle any eventuality. “All taluk-level officials have lines of contact to higher authorities. There is an established network between the hospitals in rural areas and those in cities. Ambulances from the nearest medical centre will be dispatched for timely medical assistance,” he said. Mr. Tirumala Rao pointed out that fire hazards could not be ruled out, and wondered if the city was adequately prepared to handle fires in high-rise buildings.

Sources in the Fire Department admitted that though there was a proliferation of high-rise apartments in the city, very few have bothered to secure clearances from the department, without which the local authorities were not supposed to issue completion reports. This is a rarely-followed practice, the sources added.

It is insufficient for a disaster management cell to act as a coordinating agency, Mr. Tirumala Rao said. He underlined the need to train those in the industrial and transportation sector while creating awareness on disaster management in schools.

Incidentally, the Mysore Medical Relief Society was constituted several years ago for this purpose, “but it was dissolved early this month owing to the lack of enthusiasm from the public,” Mr. Tirumala Rao added.

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