Thursday, December 3, 2015

[Editorial # 3] Dark clouds & a silver lining

Chennai has been reeling under nature's fury. Many say that this unprecedented wrath of nature is partially linked to anthropogenic factors as well. Read the following Editorial published in The Hindu and spare a moment to think through the causes and impact of such disasters.

Dark clouds & a silver lining

Making extensive preparations for rare, extreme situations is neither easy nor economical. Both the Tamil Nadu administration and the residents of Chennai and its neighbouring districts were not ready for the relentless spells of rain after the North-East monsoon set in, flooding homes and offices, roads and malls. Ordinarily, the worry for Chennai is a weak monsoon with deficit rainfall that leaves little water for drinking purposes and irrigation. But, over the last 30 days, the government and the people were dealing with the ill-effects of an unusually active monsoon that seemed intent on overcompensating for the deficit years with record rainfall. Even as the city returned to some sort of normalcy after one torrential downpour, it had to contend with another spell of rain. Displacement, traffic jams, power cuts, rising prices, and scarcity of food, the woes just would not end for the people of Chennai. The situation was especially bad for those in the relatively new residential areas in the suburbs where, in recent years, real estate growth was given priority over planned development. Also, more than the amount of rainfall, Chennai was hit badly by the overflow of water from reservoirs and breaches in lakes and tanks, and the flooding of water channels that were already choked with silt and refuse. With an unprecedented discharge of water, Chennai’s rivers have shown no respect for the bridges and the roads, effectively cutting off people and places on one bank with the people and places on the other bank. With bus and suburban railway services becoming inoperable, Chennai had to rely heavily on the new Metro line and the Mass Rapid Transit System.
But the rains were not all about doom and gloom. The government did remarkably well in rescue and relief efforts, quickly requisitioning the deployment of the armed forces to evacuate people in flooded areas and engaging in elaborate rehabilitation work. In the end, even Opposition leaders readily praised the relief measures taken up in challenging circumstances. The distress brought about by the rain also revealed the remarkable strength and character of the people in the city and the affected districts, with NGOs supplementing the efforts of the government, and public- spirited individuals taking up relief work, spending time and resources in reaching out to those left stranded. The Hindu is privileged to be a part of these efforts. Social networks were full of messages offering help or information on where help would be available. Malls and private schools and colleges too opened their doors to the flood victims. A radio taxi service provider, under criticism for failing to arrange cabs, offered free boat services. Clearly, the civic solidarity was in evidence everywhere, with volunteers helping to ferry the aged and the sick, and distribute food packets and warm clothes. Without a doubt, this has been the silver lining in the dark clouds over Chennai over the last few weeks. The lessons learnt during this extended disaster should result in a hard look at existing policies on urban planning, and a short-term revamp of the inadequacies in the civic infrastructure of urban areas.
1. What is a Disaster?
2. What are different types of Disaster?
3. What are different types of Disaster faced by India?
4. What is Disaster Management?
5. What is the Disaster Management Machinery available in India?
6. Do you think that disasters are caused by human activities? If yes, then explain with examples?
7. What is North-East Monsoon? 
8. Why does Chennai receive rainfall during the months of November and December while the rest of the country receives it during June to August?
9. Can similar such situation of heavy downpour occur in Bangalore? Why or why not?


  1. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction defines disaster as and I quote 'A serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources.'
    Further International federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies define disaster as 'sudden, calamitous event that seriously disrupts the functioning of a community or society and causes human, material, and economic or environmental losses that exceed the community’s or society’s ability to cope using its own resources. Though often caused by nature, disasters can have human origins.'


    Check this out for all you want to know about India's Disaster Management Machinery

  3. There are basically two types of disaster, firstly man-made disaster and secondly natural disaster.
    Man-made disaster includes those disaster which are caused due to human activities. These are basically caused due to negligence or lack of due diligence on the part of human beings and in most cases these diasaster could have been prevented. For example- motor vehicle accidents, fire, stampede etc.
    Natural disaster includes those disaster that is caused due to act of god. These are basically those disaster which doesn't involve human beings. For example-Lightning, earthquake, tornado, flood etc.

    1. but i think that the natural disaster is also due to the negligence of man towards the nature to which the nature replies back in the forms of tsunami, floods etc.its we the humans who have exploited the nature to the fullest for our own materialistic gains.

    2. Manjari,
      Whenever you assert anything always try to substantiate that with evidences. In this case you would have given the example of how human actions were one of the vital factors responsible for devastations caused by Uttarakhand floods in 2013. People developed infrastructure indiscrimanetly on the fragile and sensitive banks of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers etc.

  4. Section 2(d) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, defines "disaster” as a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man made causes, or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or degradation of, environment, and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area.

  5. 1. According to Section 2(d) of the National Disaster Management Act, 2005 a disaster is defined as “….catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from nature or man-made causes, or by accident or negligence which result in substantial loss of life, of human suffering or damage to, and destruction of property, or damage to, or degradation of environment, and is of such nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of affected areas.”

    2. Disasters are broadly divided into two types i.e., natural and man-made, having further sub-categories. Natural disasters occur without human intervention, either suddenly or through a series of events. They may be geophysical (earthquakes), hydrological (landslides), climatological (drought) or biological (epidemics). On the other hand, man-made disasters are caused due to human activities like, chemical (Bhopal gas tragedy), biological (oil spills resulting in damage to marine life) and nuclear disaster (Chernobyl, Fukushima) etc.

    3. Owing to India’s varied topography, it is vulnerable to various kinds of natural disasters (droughts, flash floods, cyclones, avalanches, landslides due to rains). Presently, the inundation caused in Chennai due to torrential rains has thrown life out of gear in the city. Bhopal Gas tragedy and the Oleum Gas leak in 1984 remain the two most horrendous man-made disasters in India.

    4. Disaster management is the organization and management of resources at hand to mitigate the damages caused to life and property due to disasters and reduce its impact.

    5. Under the National Disaster Management Act, 2005 a three tier mechanism has been introduced to mitigate disasters in India. it includes the National Disaster Management Authority, State Disaster Management Authority and District Disaster Management Authority. In addition, a National Disaster Response Fund and a National Disaster Management Fund are to be constituted under the Act. Under the 73rd and the 74th Amendment, the local Governments have also been conferred certain legislative functions.

    6. While such natural phenomenons like floods, droughts, etc have been occurring since time immemorial, the disaster seems more severe now due to greater human exploitation of natural resources. Considering the current inundation of Chennai, unplanned real estate boom along with illegal encroachment of lakes reduced the soil cover which would absorb rain water. The 2006 earthquake in Kashmir killed more than 74,000 people on both sides of the border which would have been prevented with proper infrastructure.
    7. & 8. During the month of September as the Sun shifts to the Southern Hemisphere, the northern part of the Indian sub-continent begins to cool down rapidly while the southern part is still warm. Due to the pressure difference between the two regions, winds start blowing from the Northern part to the southern end of the Deccan peninsula. The cold dry wind picks up some moisture from the Bay of Bengal and it rains over parts of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. It is the major period of rainfall over the South Peninsula particularly coastal Andhra Pradesh, Rayalseema and Tamil Nadu-Pondicherry. This season accounts for about 48% of the total rainfall to be received by Tamil Nadu which is usually bearing the brunt of insufficient rainfall.

    8. Despite being situated at an elevation of more than 900m, Bangalore is vulnerable to being water logged or even flooded in case of heavy rain or storm. Its drainage system will be unable to handle the amount of rainwater due to three main reasons. Firstly, the drainage system might overflow due to excessive rainwater. Secondly, silt deposition in the conduits may reduce the capacity of the pipes. Lastly, the high velocity of escaping rainwater may damage the pipes rendering them useless.
    Spillover of excess water into lakes or watersheds can help prevent flooding. Moreover, increasing the width, slope and material lining of the conduit could help prevent the same.

    1. Brilliant!
      One minor correction. National Disaster Response Force is missing!

    2. One good exercise would be to find out the details of the district level Disaster Management Machinery in Bangalore. If you wish you could RTI queries as well.