Disaster management plan in Karnataka

BANGALORE May 9. The Department of Fire Force, Home Guards, and Civil Defence has prepared a comprehensive disaster management plan for Karnataka, keeping in mind the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York in September 2001.

The plan, the first of its kind in the country, has been sent to the Government for approval. It was drawn up by the department recently in view of the need for an integrated approach to disaster management.

Sources in the department told The Hindu here that the proposal envisaged the constitution of a high-level disaster management committee in Bangalore. The committee would comprise senior officers from all the major departments expected to be involved in relief and rehabilitation work during natural calamities and disasters caused by man, they said.

Since disaster management is a highly specialised job, the proposal has called for setting up district- and taluk-level committees headed by senior officers. The committees are expected to not only direct relief operations but also participate in rehabilitation of victims.

Under the disaster management plan, disasters have been classified into biological and nuclear, besides fire and natural calamities such as flood, famine, drought, and earthquake. As the teams have to be positioned quickly in places where disasters strike, elaborate suggestions on their deployment have been made.

Besides, the proposal has called for the enactment of a "disaster management plan Act." Sources said that would give the high-powered committee legal and administrative sanction to take steps.

Pointing out that the disaster management teams will not only have to hire personnel and equipment at short notice, the proposal has suggested that the normal procedures involving hire and purchase be dispensed with, and the teams be given adequate powers to take decisions.

Under the proposal, purchases made by the committee during disasters should be exempted from the tendering processes to avoid delay. Payments made to workers hired on temporary basis can be exempted from normal finance procedures, it has said.

Citing the example of the earthquakes in Lathur in Maharashtra and Bhuj in Gujarat, and the severe cyclone that lashed Orissa, sources said disaster management teams could have handled the relief operations in a more "mature" way. The Union and State governments' handling of natural calamities and disasters caused by man has drawn severe criticism from the victims and others. This can be avoided to a large extent if situations are handled professionally.

The disaster management teams should be given the mandate to assemble quickly, and begin search and rescue operations, and relief and rehabilitation measures. Each member of the team will be trained to handle a particular aspect.

On the threat of a biological disaster, sources said the department was ill-equipped to face such a situation. The Health Department had been approached to help impart training to firemen and personnel of the Fire Force, Civil Defence, and Home Guards in handling such emergencies.

Sources said that the major natural threat to Karnataka would be floods, drought, and earthquakes, as the State was part of the Deccan Plateau which had many geological faults. There could be disasters in the coastal districts of Mangalore and Karwar, and disasters in mines. Disasters such as collapse of a high-rise building need specialised rescue operations, which could only be carried out by trained personnel.

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