STATE OBLIVIOUS TO DISASTER PREPAREDNESS

Recent floods in North Goa once again exposed the
hollowness of the Goa government’s disaster response armour. Though the
government has a book of disaster management it lies unread and unimplemented.
THE NAVHIND TIMES starts today a series on
the absence of a fully-equipped disaster response apparatus and the risks it
poses to the people at large

SOIRU VELIP | NT

Panaji

The recent devastating floods in the state have proved
that there is lack of co-ordination among various authorities and agencies to
handle natural disasters, although there are clear-cut guidelines in the state
disaster management plan.

The floods, which affected various villages of the North
Goa district after water from the Tillari dam was released, have put spotlight
on the preparedness of the state machinery, or lack of it, to deal with natural
calamities.

The state disaster management plan prepared by the
government states that the state disaster management responsibility primarily
lies with the State Disaster Management Authority. As per the plan, there are
district disaster management authorities for both the districts. These
authorities are responsible for taking up all the disaster management
activities including prevention of a disaster and overseeing of response
mechanisms and proper relief and rehabilitation.

The document underlines the importance of having a system
in place for sending SMSs to the mobile phone using population as an early
warning mechanism to alert the people on approaching floods, cyclones or
storms.

However, the state government has failed to act upon the
plan, and hence the state sees absence of co-ordination among the authorities
and stakeholders whenever a disaster strikes.

The SDMP also states that mamlatdars along with NGOs can
hold forums to inform people as how they can alert authorities when they
witness any unusual activity or unusual weather.

The plan says that pieces of information and trainings
received from the National Disaster Response Force can be passed on to
villagers and schoolchildren, who can use them for saving themselves and others
during cyclones, floods or storms.

However, it appears that the government has not taken
steps in this direction, keeping recommendations paper-bound.

Officials in the state administration admit that there is
lack of co-ordination among the authorities as regards preventive measures,
which must be adopted to deal with natural disasters.

“Although the revenue department is a nodal agency for
disaster management, other departments
like public works and water resources must play a major role in such a
situation. Moreover they have technical staff to handle the situation,” the
official says.

The SDMP stipulates that officials must be identified by
the district collectors to handle media and press releases for disseminating to
the people. However, the government has
failed on this count as well.

It is pertinent to make references to central rules on
disaster management. Section 39 of the
Disaster Management Act, 2005 says that it shall be responsibility of every
department of the state government to take measures necessary for prevention of
disasters, mitigation, preparedness and capacity-building in accordance with
the guidelines laid down by the national authority and the state authority, and
integrate them into development plans and projects.

The act says that the state should allocate funds for
prevention of disaster, mitigation, capacity-building and preparedness, and it
should respond effectively and promptly to any threatening disaster situation
or disaster in accordance with the state plan, and in accordance with the
guidelines or directions of the national executive committee and the state
executive committee.

Furthermore the abovementioned act says the state also
has a responsibility of drawing up mitigation, preparedness and response plans,
capacity-building, data collection and identification and training of personnel
in relation to disaster management. The state should make provision for
resources in consultation with the state authority for the implementation of
the district plan by its authorities at the district level.

The act asks the
state to make available its resources to
the national executive committee or the state executive committee or the
district authorities for the purposes of responding promptly and effectively to
any disaster in the state, including measures for providing emergency
communication with a vulnerable or affected area; transporting personnel and
relief goods to and from the affected area; providing evacuation, rescue,
temporary shelter or other immediate relief; carrying out evacuation of persons
or livestock from an area of any threatening disaster situation or disaster; setting
up temporary bridges, jetties and landing places; providing drinking water,
essential provisions, healthcare and services in an affected area.

A sub-section 1 of Section 49 of the said act states that
every department of the state government shall make provisions in its annual
budget for funds for the purposes of carrying out the activities and programmes
set out in its disaster management plan.

However, reliable sources in the state administration
told ‘The Navhind Times’ that no such practice has been adopted by the
government departments so far.

The SDMP mentions that high frequency sirens are fixed at
vulnerable places to sound alert and warn people in the events of flood.
Installations of high discharge power pumps have been installed at different
places which are more susceptible for floods to dewater the inundated areas.

However, no such alerts or warnings were issued to the
people during the recent floods in the villages of North Goa.

Source:: The Navhind Times

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