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Disaster Risk Reduction strategies need to be mainstreamed: Manmohan

Nov 01, 2013

The Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, said that early warning systems should be strengthened further to minimise the negative impact of disasters. Excerpts from his speech at the fifth meeting of the National Disaster Management Authority in New Delhi.

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New Delhi: We have witnessed two major disasters recently in our country – the tragedy of Uttarakhand and cyclone Phailin which affected Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. The rains and floods in Uttarakhand resulted in large scale devastation and severely tested the efficacy of our disaster response mechanisms. There are important lessons to be learnt from the experience gained from the rescue and relief operations that were carried out. I sincerely hope that all the concerned agencies of the Central and State Governments will utilize the experience of Uttarakhand in better management of disasters that we may face in the future.

Our response to the more recent cyclone in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh has been encouraging. I am happy that the NDMA played a significant role in this response through close engagement and coordination with various Central Government Agencies, the State Government and even the District administration. It was only because of collaboration between different agencies that the daunting task of evacuating nearly 10 lakh people in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh was accomplished in a timely manner and with minimal loss of human lives.

Our response to cyclone Phailin also underscores the importance of measures taken in the past for disaster preparedness, including sentisization of stakeholders and mock exercises. I am informed that the sustained guidance provided by NDMA over the last 8 years proved to be very useful and enabled government departments to respond quickly and systematically to the disaster. Collaboration between NDMA and the Odisha Disaster Management Authority in the pre-disaster phase of preparation of Disaster Management plans and formulation of Standard Operation Procedures; construction of a large number of cyclone shelters etc. resulted in positive outcomes. I am also informed that the mock exercise organized in Srikakulam District on 25th-26th April, 2013 and public awareness messages published in that area on 8th and 9th October 2013 helped both the district administration as well as the community in executing a disciplined and quick response to the cyclone.

We are aware that the world over, extreme weather events are on the rise. Such events impact the poor and marginalized people in a disproportionate manner. It is therefore all the more necessary that we quickly improve our disaster management capabilities. Every rupee spent on disaster preparedness is a saving of expenditure on post disaster relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction measures. Disaster Risk Reduction strategies therefore need to be mainstreamed into our developmental programmes and policies. This is an area on which the NDMA and the key Ministries of the Central Government should lay greater stress.

Our early warning systems and response mechanisms should be strengthened further so that we are able to minimize the negative impact of disasters. In this context, NDMA's efforts to strengthen community preparedness for disaster events and its engagement in activities related to disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness need to be continued with greater intensity.

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