Every monsoon, heavy rains bring the city to a standstill as citizens battle inundation, tree fall and traffic-ridden roads. With unfailing regularity, every year the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike makes announcements of measures it has taken to prevent flooding and destruction.
This time, however, the civic body has embarked on a vulnerability-mapping exercise, where it will map structures that are prone to collapse in the event of a natural calamity, such as high-velocity wind, inundation and even earthquake. According to civic officials, it will include structures that are at a high risk of collapse in all zones, including mud houses, hutments, and trees.
Two workshops have already been held for officials of the west zone, comprising 44 wards. The exercise will be taken up in all the other zones soon. This exercise is all the more important in the backdrop of the devastation caused by heavy rains in other parts of Karnataka.
Pointing to the large-scale destruction in at least six districts of the State following floods, officials said vulnerability mapping will help the BBMP minimise loss of life and property, and also take adequate preventive measures.
“This is an exercise that is mandated by the Union government, which will help the civic body be better prepared in disaster management,” said BBMP’s Special Commissioner (Administration) D. Randeep, adding that they have started holding workshops for engineers and revenue officials.
“In March this year, the Union government announced the third edition of Vulnerability Atlas of India to help enhance preparedness of State governments and other agencies in mitigating natural disasters. In a letter to the State government, it noted that through the atlas, the government can identify districts most prone to severe disaster situations and those with multi-hazard situations requiring priority action in future planning, formulating integrated mitigation policies,” said sources in the BBMP.
It also directed the State governments to make suitable provisions in tender documents, quality control and assurance plans so that disaster mitigation measures are adequately addressed, apart from organising workshops for engineers, architects and other stakeholders who may be nominated from the urban local bodies and departments dealing with housing. Following this, the Chief Secretary directed the Urban Development Department to take up the exercise.
The BBMP, according to senior officials, passed an order in June to publicise the Vulnerability Atlas and conduct training/workshops in all eight zones and 63 sub-divisions, apart from preparing for the monsoon.
“In Bengaluru, the main issues are with electricity poles and trees being uprooted. There are many areas with old trees. The mapping will take into account these issues, which will help improve the communication network during emergencies and being better prepared to respond in such situations, apart from drawing up a standard operating procedure for Incident Response System (IRS),” sources said.
The third edition of the Vulnerability Atlas of India is available on www.bmtpc.org , with links on http://mohua.gov.in , http://ghtc-india.gov.in
First responders to disasters
The BBMP is planning to identify at least 100 people in each sub-division in the city and train them to be first responders in case of an emergency or natural disaster.
According to a senior official, who spoke to The Hindu , this will be taken up on priority after the vulnerability mapping is completed. Those identified will be trained in risk management.
“We will ask the community to identify residents of their area/locality, who do not have any criminal background. They will be trained and will have to be in touch with the BBMP control rooms,” the official said.
The BBMP already has in place one central control room in the head office, eight zonal control rooms in the offices of Joint Commissioners, and 63 control rooms in the sub-divisions.
Disaster Emergency Operation Centre locked
A huge hall on the second floor of Kandaya Bhavan lies bare and the furniture is gathering dust. This is the Disaster Emergency Operation Centre (DEOC) for Bengaluru (Urban) district, managed by the Department of Revenue.
Ideally, it is supposed to function round-the-clock. However, it has been locked for many months now, said sources.
The centre is mandatory for all districts under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. It will oversee activities of 28 different departments, including the BBMP, and respond during emergency situations.
With the centre being non-functional, the BBMP has opened its own Disaster Management Cell, which coordinates between control rooms in the eight zones and 63 sub-divisions.
Senior officials in the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Bengaluru (Urban) district, admitted that with urban flooding being a major issue, it was important for the DEOC to be revived.
“The DEOC is in charge of the entire district, including areas under BBMP and zilla panchayat. It is imperative that the centre is revived, given that parts of the district have chronic water issues and are dependent on agriculture. As per the rules, DEOC is supposed to oversee crop loss due to drought, identify beneficiaries for compensation,” officials said.
Part of the DEOC’s mandate is to identify installations that are at high risk, apart from meeting with all departments concerned once every three months and keep tabs on mock drills that are to be conducted to create awareness about disaster management.
Officials noted that the meeting with all departments concerned, chaired by Deputy Commissioner, was held recently. “However, there is no other activity,” officials admitted.
Asked about the defunct DEOC, Deputy Commissioner, Bengaluru Urban, K. Srinivas said he would direct the officials to revive the centre. He directed officials to revive the toll-free number and depute personnel to man it round-the-clock.