Protection of Coastal Areas from Rising Sea Level
Recently released Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that global mean sea level has risen by 190 mm over the period 1901-2010.
The first time many of us heard of Disaster Risk Reduction was probably in 2005, a month after the tsunami struck. The World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held at Kobe, Japan, adopted the Hyogo Framework of Action 2005-2015.
This was the time when post-tsunami reconstruction of the affected areas had begun – people were being moved into temporary shelters and discussions about rebuilding houses was going on full swing. The tsunami was an unexpected, new threat from the sea, an addition to the cyclones and storm surges. How did one ensure people’s safety by the sea?
The announcement of HFA’s three strategic goals at this time was thus most appropriate: The integration of disaster risk reduction into sustainable development policies and planning; Development and strengthening of institutions, mechanisms and capacities to build resilience to hazards and the systematic incorporation of risk reduction approaches into the implementation of emergency preparedness, response and recovery programmes. Ah, here were directions that could be followed. Thus, Slowly, wherever possible, these ideas were integrated into the rebuilding process. For example, multi-hazard resilient houses were built and Early Warning Systems were put in place. There were a number of sessions conducted by NGOs with communities where PRAs helped the locals (and the outsiders) understand threats, risks and methods to build a resilient society.
In 2008, BEDROC carried out a study to look at the state of disaster resilience among tsunami affected communities using a framework created by John Twigg with reference to the HFA’s five thematic areas for disaster resilience. One of the most obvious findings was that there was a heightened awareness of disasters and the need for disaster preparedness. But it still continued to be top down rather than a bottom up approach in terms of building disaster resilience.
Scientist alleges illegal export of Rs.1 lakh crore beach minerals from TN
An accomplished ocean scientist, who explored the entire coast of the country for sea minerals at the Centre's behest, has filed a PIL in the Madras high court saying rare beach sand minerals worth at least 1 lakh crore had been illegally exported from Tamil Nadu with the connivance of central and state agencies and officers.
It appears now that final decisions on environmental clearances depend more on political directives than the environmental impact assessment reports. This means that, if you want to protect the environment, it is extremely important to influence the right politicians. How is this best done? A major player is the media, by highlighting issues that are likely to have extensive adverse impacts on the environment. Prithi Nambiar’s study “Media Construction of Environment and Sustainability in India” takes a look at this.
10 yrs after tsunami, India still needs to fill in disaster management gaps
"We never knew the ocean could leap towards us in such a way," says Chettiar, the well-known face of Swept, a documentary film on the tsunami. Ten years later, India looks better prepared although some serious gaps remain.
This month we observe the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. A lot of change has happened along the coast. We have learnt a lot too in the last ten years and our attitude towards disasters has changed.
Disbelief and shock – two prominent responses when the news about the tsunami hitting the coast first came in. Some of the images are still fresh in mind – the disbelief that on a warm clear day, there were reports of water entering coastal hamlets. How could that be when there was no cyclone in the offing? The rush towards the coast with relief supplies as the scale of destruction got known. The initial chaos followed by coordination and organized response.
What have we learnt in the last decade?
First of all, that a phenomenon called ‘tsunami’ exists. That it is a wave generated (most often) by an undersea earthquake. That tsunamis have hit the Indian coasts many times in the past, but memory being what it is, few remember such rare events. That we can be forewarned about tsunamis – Early Warning Systems have been set up for the Indian Ocean region and have been able to forecast accurately whether we will or won’t be hit by a tsunami when there is an undersea earthquake near Indonesia. The latest proof was just two days ago when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake occurred under the Molucca Sea near Halmahera in Indonesia. Yes, initially we were sceptical – we did not trust the ability of buoys in the deep sea to be able to give us adequate warning. But looks like things have settled down and people have become a little trusting of the ITEWS.
Early this month, Cyclone Hudhud wreaked havoc over the beautiful city of Visakhapatnam, and parts of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. It is believed to be the most destructive cyclone ever to hit India because the total damage costs are expected to be at least Rs7000 Crores. Rebuilding must focus on enforcement of norms.
The Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Hudhud which crossed Andhra Pradesh on 12th October not only wreaked havoc over coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha but triggered a blizzard in Nepal apart from causing heavy rain in Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. Most tragic was the fact that the Cyclone Warning Centre in Visakhapatnam had to be shut down just as the cyclone was making landfall! The wind tore through the buildings, ripping off Vizag airport’s roof and resulting in bricks flying through fourth floor windows apart from shattering glass of modern buildings. Tall girders, streetlights bent like matchsticks, fallen trees and debris everywhere. There was even a video of a car flying from the top of a showroom prompting someone who did not know the cause to ask if this was some new flying car test. What trees were left standing were stripped of their leaves and branches that could be torn off. A retired English professor who has lived there for 75 years said that she had never seen the likes of it before. After the cyclone, Vizag went for days without power and water and telecom facilities.
Most of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha are no strangers to cyclones. The R&R apparatus, cyclone shelters, evacuation procedures and so on are quite organized. The IMD did a fantastic job by predicting the track of the cyclone well in advance. Yet a lot of people were not prepared – one lady said that they were warned about the cyclone, but were not told to be prepared with candles and such emergency stock! Had Visakhapatnam grown a little complacent over the decades since it had not experienced such fury over many decades?