Public awareness on disasters found wanting



Although the state disaster management plan stresses on
creating awareness in villages, schools and colleges, it appears that no serious efforts have been
made to educate the people on how to deal with calamities.

The role of different departments and agencies has been
underlined in ‘pre-disaster’ chapter of the SDMP. However, the authorities have
failed to carry out awareness programmes on how and where the locals from
‘disaster approaching’ areas should be shifted with their belongings.

The preface of the SDMP states that though Goa has not
been struck by any major disaster, the state is vulnerable to natural
calamities like floods, cyclonic storms, earthquakes, landslides, mining
hazards and sea erosion.

Besides, the state is also at risk of manmade disasters
like major fires, industrial accidents, terrorist attacks etc.

Moreover, it says that the plan should be useful to tackle multi-hazard
vulnerabilities to population, buildings, livestock,

crop area, industries, civil facilities and

The factors like ever-growing population, the vast
disparities of income, rapid urbanisation, increasing industrialisation,
development within high risk zones, environmental degradation, climate change,
state and national security, economy and sustainable development should also be
factored in while acting on the plan.

The objective of the SDMP is to help the authorities
initiate activities for prevention and preparedness, response operations,
coordination, rehabilitation and community awareness and involvement. However,
the state administration has not given a thought on appointing dedicated
officers for creating awareness among the people.

A senior official in the administration says that nodal agencies should take up the
activities underlined in the plan by appointing special officials in talukas
for educating the people on what they should do and what they should not do on
disaster alert.

The officer feels that awareness should be created
throughout the year, and not just during the monsoon, as climate changes have
been throwing different challenges.

Hence special officers must be asked to visit villages,
schools, colleges and other institutions for educating the people on safety
aspects when a disaster approaches.

The people should be given out pamphlets that inform them
on steps needed to be taken when a calamity strikes.

“The authorities should educate the people that when a
calamity approaches they should carry their important documents, cash and
personnel effects. The people should carry documents like Aadhar cards, ration
cards, driving licences, election cards, ATM and PAN cards when moving to
safety, as these documents will help them in claiming compensation,” he explains.

The framework of the plan is based on the paradigm shift
in disaster management from a relief-centric approach to a regime that
anticipates the importance of preparedness, prevention and mitigation.

It is pertinent to note here that National Disaster
Management Authority’s guidelines say that there is a need to form municipality
and panchayet level disaster management plans.

But most of the local self-governing bodies have not
drawn up the mandated plans, perhaps out of ignorance or apathy.

The SDMP says that the talukas of Bicholim, Sattari,
Ponda, Canacona and Sanguem are affected by floods, while the talukas of
Pernem, Bardez, Tiswadi, Salcete, Mormugao and Canacona are affected by the
erosion of coastal areas.

Moreover, due to the change in rain pattern, floods have been witnessed in almost all the talukas
in low-lying areas, khazan and agricultural lands.

Floods have also affected urban areas due to drainage
congestion/encroachment of floodplain of rivers for various development
activities and tidal variations.

Source:: The Navhind Times

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