One of the most beautiful attractions of Visakhapatnam city is its 30-km Beach Road stretch that extends from Naval Coastal Battery to Bheemunipatnam. However, the entire stretch has a high risk perception as it is vulnerable to natural disasters.
This is the opinion of Prof. Surya Parkash from the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), who heads the Geo-Meteorological Risks Management Division and also the CBRN, Industrial and Cyber DRR Division. He is in the city to address a week-long national-level workshop on Multi-Hazard Risk Reduction being organised by NIDM and GVMC.
Speaking to The Hindu on Wednesday, Prof. Surya Parkash said that the seawater level is rising, which is primarily due to the increase in seawater temperature and melting of glaciers, which will eventually impact all coastal cities across the globe, including Visakhapatnam.
“I have come to understand that there have been incidents of the beach road caving in at some places. This itself is an indication and it is not advisable to build roads, permanent structures or high-rise buildings close to the coast on this stretch. But unfortunately, I find many such structures,” he said.
According to him, the two most important aspects for mitigation or prevention of disasters are strict curbing of violations by the authorities concerned and raising awareness among people.
“Authorities concerned should step in wherever there are violations of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms, and at the same time, people should understand the consequences of climate shift,” he said.
“As far as awareness building is concerned, we are trying to implement a subject on disasters and their management from the school-level itself,” said Prof. Surya Parkash.
“It is time that training in civil defence, especially in disaster management, should be made mandatory. Because only citizens who are aware can mitigate a disaster. This is where countries such as Japan stand over the rest of the countries. Being a nation of four islands prone to natural calamities, it has the best disaster preparation and management plan and it is implemented with the help of well-informed and trained citizens,” he said.
India has come a long way
India is prone to natural calamities, right from tropical cyclones to tsunamis in the coastal region to floods, flash floods, and earthquakes, avalanches and landslides in the Himalayan region.
“With every incident, we have learned a lesson. In the last three decades, we were hit by a number of natural disasters such as the avalanche in Pithoragarh, which was then in Uttar Pradesh in 1998, the 1999 Odisha super cyclone, the Bhuj and Latur earthquakes in 2001 and 1993 and the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004.
“The magnitude of destruction and loss of life was insurmountable, but today, we are well placed and have been able to bring down casualties at least in the predictable natural disasters,” he said.
“It all started with the setting up of a National Centre for Disaster Management in 1995. Post 2000, things started to look up with the setting up of NIDM and the passing of an Act and a policy coming into play. From the Ministry of Agriculture, disaster management was transferred to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Today, we have a well-defined framework in place that administers the NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority) to the SDMA (State Disaster Management Authority) to the DDMA (District Disaster Management Authority),” said Prof. Surya Parkash.
“International framework such as that Sendai Framework has been incorporated in the national framework and today we can say that our disaster management and risk reduction is on par with global standards, but there is still a lot to be done. Most importantly, we have the NDRF and SDRF that respond to disasters within no time,” he said.
The professor stated that active work is in progress to understand and map non-predictable disasters such as earthquakes.