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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.

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