5-nation exercise to focus on heritage structures’ protection

Published - February 11, 2020 04:14 am IST - BHUBANESWAR

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is building the capacity of its forces to play the role of first responder at heritage sites, which are vulnerable to disasters such as earthquake, flood, cyclone and tsunami across India.

“When Nepal suffered the loss of several heritage monuments in an earthquake, it was a cause for concern for the disaster management authorities across the world. Heritage sites need to be protected during disasters. We are going to build the capacity of our personnel,” said NDRF DGP Satya Narayan Pradhan here on Monday.

Mr. Pradhan was speaking ahead of the three-day Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Disaster Management Exercise beginning in Bhubaneswar and Konark from Tuesday.

Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Nepal are participating in the exercise while Bhutan and Thailand, where travel restrictions are in place, will be absent.

“The exercise is to test the emergency procedures for notification, preparedness and emergency response during major earthquake and flood scenarios. It will also test the multi-stakeholders’ coordination in a disaster scenario involving international, national, State, district and local agencies,” said Mr. Pradhan.

A village has been set up near Ramchandi in Puri district where around 40 motorboats and a helicopter would be pressed into service for the exercise.

There will be a set of personnel in each battalion of the NDRF who will get the basic training in preserving monuments in the pre and post disaster scenario.

More than 300 participants representing the five countries, all States, the UNDP, the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration Cultural Property (ICCROM), the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, the ASI, the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group and the IMD.

Mr. Pradhan said, “We want to finalise the basic premise for a guideline for preserving monuments. Many disaster response actions are likely to be codified.”

P. K.Jena, General Manager of the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority, said the State was also contemplating to train its response teams.

There are 3,686 Centrally protected monument sites under the ASI. Of these, 79 are located in Odisha. According to INTACH, close to 10,000 sites and buildings are protected. However, it has listed about 70,000 sites having heritage value in 500 towns. It says there could be 11 lakh sites in an estimated 8,000 towns and villages. Gujarat had witnessed damage at the heritage sites in the 2001 earthquake.

In the 2015 Nepal quake, 745 monuments had suffered damage including 133 razed to ground, 97 partially damaged and 515 in a minor way.

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