Saturday 30 December 2017

Nepal Endorses Disaster Risk Reduction Bill

Reducing disaster risks in Nepal is important to India. And building resilience in India is important to Nepal. When India and Nepal reduce risks the region is safer.
– Mihir R. Bhatt

The Himalayan nation of Nepal is famous for its scenic beauty, adventure sports and friendly people. However, it is also exposed to multiple hazards like earthquakes, floods, landslides, fires, heat waves, cold waves, lightning, windstorms, hailstorms, droughts, epidemics and so on due to its variable geo-climatic conditions, young geology, unplanned settlements, deforestation, environmental degradation and increasing population. The 2015 Nep
al Earthquake which claimed over 10,000 lives and caused economic damages amounting to US $ 7 Billion is a testament to the country's enhanced vulnerability to disaster risk.

As a nation that is frequently ravaged by disasters, governance of disasters in Nepal was primarily fell under the ambit of the National Calamity Relief Act of 1982. However, it did not cover the broader spectrum of hazard mitigation and disaster risk management or the categorization of the diversified disasters which the country is exposed to. Therefore, there was an urgent need for a new legal framework that would holistically address disaster risk in Nepal.

The endorsement of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) bill by Nepal's parliament addresses this need. The DRRM bill represents the culmination of a decade's worth of efforts by various development and humanitarian actors. This piece of legislation will institutionalize disaster risk reduction as well as mobilise local resources.

This bill also proposes setting up a Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, which will have ministers for finance; supplies; agriculture; home affairs; physical infrastructure and transport; women, children and social welfare; defence; forest and soil conservation; education; urban development; irrigation; information and communications; and federal affairs and local development as the members.

The bill also talks about formation of a separate disaster management fund at the central level and a National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Centre (NDRRMC). The NDRRMC would further help in building resilience at the local and provincial levels by declaring an area disaster hit and facilitating the formation of disaster management committees.

It is worth noting that the DRRM bill can be leveraged to broaden the scope of DRR activities in the country. For instance, the theme of school safety and protection of children affected by disasters can be more easily planned and executed. Other allied themes such a nutrition, human mobility (both social and physical) as well as biodiversity protection can also be addressed through the medium of this bill. "Gender" is the key and essential factor of disaster risk reduction. It can also be included as DRR activities in the DRRM bill.

There is an increasing body of scientific evidence that holds climate change responsible for exacerbating the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. These extreme weather events often trigger large scale disasters in countries like Nepal due to the poor infrastructure and low access to basic services. The DRRM bill will also help in addressing the risk of such extreme weather events.

The devastation wreaked by the 2015 Nepal Earthquake, stirred an entire country into concerted action for disaster resilience. Since then, Nepal has been making a steady recovery which is observed in an overall improvement of various human development outcomes. The DRRM bill is another expression of the changing landscape of risk reduction in the serene Himalayan nation.


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Friday 15 December 2017

India-Russia Coordinated Action on DRR

India and Russia are collaborating more closely on various safety and security issues. This trend has recently included addressing disaster risk. The National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP) of India states that coordinated action among nations through the response and preparedness phases is central to the risk reduction process. In the coming years, India and Russia are planning on such coordinated action.

The Asian Regional Plan (ARP), as accepted at Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) in Delhi, November 2016 also gives emphasis to such international cooperation in reducing disaster risks in Asia. ARP aims at effectively implementing Sendai Framework and represents the risk reduction priorities of Asian governments and stakeholders. The AMCDRR and ARP both underline the principles of shared responsibility and shared commitments towards the implementation of the Sendai Framework.

India and Russia first held joint talks on collaboration for catastrophe administration in 2010. A federal approach was deemed to be a strength. Since then, Russia has agreed to work with India to set up the National Crisis Management Centre (NCMC) in Delhi to handle disaster and other emergency situations in the country. This was agreed during a meeting between Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Russian Minister for Emergency Situations, Vladimir Puchkov in Moscow on 28th November, 2017. Russia's Ministry of Emergency Situations, popularly known as EMERCON will participate in the formation of the NCMC in India.

According to the agreement, India's proposed NCMC will rely on a system similar to OKISON, which is Russia's complex system of monitoring and reporting alerts. Such a system is most suited for India's federal government set up.

India has long been committed to what Home Minister Rajnath Singh referred to at Sendai as "Collaborative Federalism" in implementing all disaster risk reduction plans. In concrete terms, "Collaborative Federalism" means the decentralization of response powers to the states, and transfer of financial resources, which will help the states fulfill their disaster related obligations. Moreover, it also implies the advancement of loans (in disaster situations) as a "productive principle", and deployment of armed forces (in emergencies) in the states. The NCMC will improve this collaborative federalism by improving inter-state and centre-state coordination.

EMERCOM's participation in setting up India's NCMC is especially significant. EMERCOM, established in January 1994 by the then President of Russia, Boris Yelstin, is an example of strong federal coordination for minimizing the adverse impacts of disasters and emergencies. It builds on the work of Russian Rescue Corps and addresses safety and security concerns effectively.

The two countries have also agreed to a program of training of experts and sharing of each other's best practices in the field of disaster risk reduction. A joint exercise may be conducted towards the end of 2018 or early 2019.

India's home minister and Nikolai Patrushev, secretary, Security Council of Russian Federation met in the last week of November to discuss the shared ways in which disaster risk and external threat overlap; and how can these be addressed simultaneously in a national response. During the meeting, the two sides reiterated their assurance to additionally reinforce their participation in disaster safety and the segments of security, including counter-terrorism.

Information is the key to unified and coordinated response to disaster risk and security concerns. Both India and Russia reviewed the implementation of the agreement on information security signed in October 2016.

Both sides value the progressing participation and exchange visits between the two National Security Councils of India and Russia.

In the coming years, Russia and India will continue to find ways to enhance the risk reduction and resilience building efforts especially related to Federative structure. Article 263 of the Constitution of India, encourages the states of India to coordinate and collaborate on various challenges.

Most importantly, India is aiming to achieve the outcomes of the Sendai Framework through its National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP). A risk reduction partnership with Russia will help India to implement the NDMP much more efficiently. Disaster resilience and preparedness achieved through such a partnership will help India in achieving greater economic prosperity and stability to emerge as a regional and global leader.  

– Kshitij Gupta, AIDMI

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Monday 11 December 2017

Char Areas in Assam: Risk Assessment Tools for Women and Children

In India, Char areas are most commonly found in the states of Assam and West Bengal. These areas can be described as tracts of land surrounded by the waters of an ocean, sea, lake, or stream; it usually means, any accretion in a river course or estuary. These areas emerge and submerge in large river beds such as those of the Brahmaputra in Assam are uniquely vulnerable to disasters such as floods and cyclones.

The All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI) works in Assam to make local plans in the districts and holds mock drills in the towns. This work has indicated a special need for capturing what women and children in Char areas want in terms of safety and security. How best to capture what women and children want?

The following is a table of tools that are required to be applied, modified, and revised to make women and children of Char areas in Assam central to reducing risk and building resilience.

– AIDMI Team
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Thursday 7 December 2017

India's Next Urban Disaster: Air Pollution?

It is smart for a city to alert citizens about air pollution. Ahmedabad is leading Indian cities in this regard.
– Mihir R. Bhatt, AIDMI.

Should air pollution be added as the newest hazard in India's National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP). In November 2017, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) had issued the first ever Red Alert to its citizens on air pollution. Ahmedabad is one of the cities of Hundred Smart Cities programme of India with such scientific capacity and institutional commitment to protect its citizen from the negative impact of air pollution. 

Air pollution is indeed a major health hazard in cities. It is the greatest contributor for pollution-related deaths globally (scientific study, The Lancet Commission on pollution and health (2015), As a consequence of globalization and production outsourcing, pollution and pollution-related diseases have become planetary problems. In 2015, air pollution caused over 9 million premature deaths, more than 2.5 million of these deaths are in India.

It is high time to integrate air pollution prevention into state and city planning processes. Pollution cannot be viewed as an isolated environmental issue.

Air pollution affects the health and wellbeing of an entire city. It is important for Indian cities to establish short-term and long-term targets for pollution control and to support the agencies with regulations needed to attain these targets. The Central Pollution Control Board has Air Quality Index which covers 30 cities. It is an important step to establish systems to monitor pollution and its effects on citizens' health. Similarly, evaluating the success of interventions, guiding enforcement, informing civil society and the public, and assessing progress toward targets are equally important to move ahead from measuring to reducing and mitigating air pollution in Indian cities. 

Multi sectoral and organizational partnerships for pollution control are highly needed for urban intervention. Government agencies, corporate sector, academic institutions, civil society organizations, local social economic institutions like schools, hospitals, cooperatives, banks, etc., must act in coordination. Key sectors like health, environment, finance, energy, agriculture, urban development, and transport are essential to be involved for effective long term intervention. Scientific research on pollution control and city specific actions are needed to understand and control pollution in India.

In addition to Delhi; many cities of India have high levels of air pollution including Ahmedabad. Recently the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), prepared the 'Action Plan for Control of Air Pollution in Ahmedabad' over 18 month. The plan includes, converting waste to power on pilot base at Pirana; make the city kerosene free, ensuring all buses run on CNG; cancelling registration of commercial vehicles older than 15 years; providing financial assistance and subsidies for the purchase of commercial electric/ CNG vehicles; total ban of manufacturing of plastic bags that are less than 50 microns thick; strict penalty and ban of biomass burning and burning of plastic and other waste through public discourse; wall to wall carpeting of roads and build pavements on unpaved roads. The recent development of SAFAR app( is another very important initiative of AMC with Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar (IIPHG) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other partners to inform and encourage citizens of Ahmedabad to take precautionary steps against air pollution.

NRDC points out that from a long-term perspective, air pollution is very costly. It is responsible for losses in productivity, higher health care costs, and damage to urban ecosystems.

AIDMI is integrating air quality risk in its school safety efforts and local planning actions. It is essential to understand the perspectives of vulnerable groups such as children, women, senior citizens, informal businesses, traffic police, and casual labors on air pollution. The support of these groups is highly important in reducing the impact of air pollution. The schools, hospitals, banks, and local industries are an important groups to be involved to strengthen precautionary steps, as well as reducing and mitigating air pollution at local levels.

Though air pollution may not be taken up as a disaster due to legal and technical reasons in India yet, the time has come for National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Central Pollution Control Board to hold action oriented dialogue with citizens on air pollution in Indian cities.

– Vishal Pathak, AIDMI

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Wednesday 6 December 2017

Shaping Green Climate Fund Policies

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is dynamic and evolving.  After COP 23 in Bonn, Germany, what are the best ways to keep the GCF relevant and responsive? Three new and updated policies of GCF have been put up for public comments, viz. Environmental and Social Management System; Indigenous People's Policy; and Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Policy and Action Plan. These three policies represent the first attempt to align GCF more directly with COP 23 Bonn outcomes.

Since 1995, the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI), has worked on integrating disaster risk with climate risk to engender resilient development. The following comments on all three policies have been made drawing from AIDMI's work in 65 cities and 89 districts in India to Integrate Disaster Risk Reduction with Climate Change Adaptation since Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) SREX report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation in 2012. These comments also draw from over seven years of pioneering work of Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) in India. These comments are divided into four areas meant to shape the evolution of GCF into an effective and transformative global agent of green transformation.

One, there is a need to give more focus on the sub-national initiatives—may it be environmental and social policy or gender policy—as it is these initiatives that make a major difference in the lives of the people and their daily incomes.

Two, a greater focus is required on the urban risks faced by women and the girl child because such risks can be addressed and contained faster in the existing settlement and community patterns.

Three, investment must be made in supporting initiatives around heatwave—either through focussing on farmers in tribal areas or women street vendors in cities—as this is one of the fastest growing hazards and can be tamed with cost effective multi-purpose initiatives.

Four, a direct focus on the loss and damage caused by floods and heavy rains is needed. This is important because  the unprecedented floods of 2017 affected the lives of over 35 million Indian citizens. Therefore, social and environment policies should adequately focus on and address the risks of flood and heavy rains related loss and damage.

In 2016 AIDMI, with CDKN support, held a series of local consultations after Paris Agreement—with groups of women, tribals, youth, corporate leaders, coastal farmers and state authorities—to consolidate what are the achievements of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and what are the opportunities that lie ahead.  Through the course of these consultations, the above mentioned four areas came up in addition to ecosystem driven agriculture, sus
tainable forestry and  diversified urban transportation related opportunities for GCF. The findings were offered to Niti Aayog within India and to a wide range of donors including the European Union and DFID, UK.

Civil Society Organisation (CSO) can give more detailed inputs in this process drawing from COP 23 Bonn achievements as well as play an active role in facilitating the use and implementation of these policies in GCF day-to-day work.  CSOs can hold policy events with key partners among the women's groups and tribal leadership; organise capacity trainings on environmental and social policies; and develop pilots in schools and hospitals and offices or districts.

We have caused climate change and it is up to us to shape GCF policies in a way that will transform the development path ahead.

– AIDMI Team

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Risk Reduction Opportunities for Indian Cities

Cities in India offer the biggest and best opportunity to implement risk reduction and resilience building measures as envisaged in the National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP) of Government of India as launched in June 2016.

Since 2001, the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI) has worked in at least 65 cities from 16 states and 2 union territories of India. The activities include emergency management exercises, community consultations, participatory risk assessments, school safety audit, hospital fire safety audit, capacity building activities through trainings, demonstrations and mock-drills; advocacy through round tables; community researches; gender studies.

In addition AIDMI has worked on information dissemination; participatory shelter and urban school reconstruction activities; restoration of city livelihoods; micro-finance to businesses and risk transfer initiatives of slum dwellers. Several city drought management plans are made and in cases area based disaster risk reduction has also been taken up for special sectors as slums or dargah or temples. These activities support slum areas and the urban poor from marginalised communities.
The following is an overview of selected opportunities.

• Building Urban Resilience: 8th South-South Citizenry 
  Based Development sub-Academy (SSCBDA), 
  Ahmedabad,  January 2016 by AIDMI suggested that city-
  to-city risk reduction is the best and most cost effective
  measure of collective widescale risk reduction in India.
  Cities learns from other cities rapidly and concretely.

• Risk Transfer and Insurance: Demand Survey for Disaster
  Microinsurance in Guwahati in Assam, Puri in Odisha, and
  Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu, January 2016.

• City Disaster Management Plans: 45 city and district disaster management plans with NDMA,       
  ASDMA, BSDMA, OSDMA and Government of Jammu & Kashmir. Through these efforts it has
  been learnt that it is the process of such planning that is far more important than the actual
  final one-time top-down product.

• City Wide Emergency Management Exercises (EMEx) is a key to urban disaster preparedness and
   planning. In this "area based approach" is for more effective when focus is
   on excluded groups and risk hotspots in cities.

• AIDMI with ASDMA conducted a Guwahati City-level review study on flood risk management.
  The study reviewd 25 key Guwahati focused documents of last 10 years to list out key
   recomendations for Guwahati city specific flood risk management.

• 624 schools have been audited from 14 Urban Areas - 8 States/UTs indicated that's schools in cities
  are fore-runners of disaster risk preparedness at school level as well as at home.

• Urban Small Businesses clearly indicated that citizens and private sector are keen to take action,
  put  in time, and in cases resources to reduce risks they face with Disaster Insurance.

• In the end one of the lowest hanging fruit of NDMP is urban risk reduction.

In conducting the above mentioned work, AIDMI has developed and refined tools and methods that are of use to NDMP implementation process at the national and state level, such as Risk Review Tool for Urban Basic Services; Metro Flood Management Tool; Local Urban Employment Resilience Index; Resilient Ward Index; and Integrated City Risk Reduction Tool.

Time has come for Indian cities to becomes engines of disaster risk reduction activities.

- AIDMI Team
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Unlikely Nuclear Disaster: Likely Preparedness Planning

In the popular perception, nuclear disaster seems unlikely in India.  And all the care that can be taken is taken by the authorities and scientists.  But should that stop the citizens of India from thinking ahead for our need for preparedness planning for an unlikely nuclear disaster?

Though the National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP) of India, first ever national plan that is in compliance with global Sendai Framework, highlights the nuclear disaster, in fact the spirit of the plan does, indeed, call for adding value to each safety and security measure enlisted.

In fact a nuclear disaster is not a local or regional event but, in fact, a national security challenge. Therefore, the wider the preparedness for possible response, the safer the citizens of India will be.
What may be a good next step is developing policies and managing processes for nuclear disasters.

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) of India has developed National Disaster Management Guidelines for Management of Nuclear and Radiological Emergencies in February 2009 under the Chairmanship of Shri B. Bhattacharji.

One way to initiate such preparedness planning is to develop an "area based" approach as was recently discussed at Urban Humanitarian Response Symposium organized by Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in UK. Though urban is a recent focus, the idea of an area based approach is not new. UNDP has promoted this approach for years, including for tsunami recovery in Sri Lanka in 2005 to 2007.  In India, since 1989 Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Rural Development, Government of India has taken up Area Development Programmes for the Eighth Five Year Plan (1992-1997). What is needed is a thoughtful transplant of the approach from the development sector to the disaster risk reduction sector.

For the existing safety procedures and security rules for nuclear disaster, what will be useful is third-party safety and preparedness verification and security compliance that is regular and action oriented.  This is not to say that similar efforts have not been taken up at the nuclear sites in India.  What will add value is a broader base for such actions and preparedness.

In fact such preparedness also needs to factor in the possible impact on changing climate and ways to reduce impact of nuclear disaster on India's climate. There are hardly any global studies on the impact of nuclear disasters on environment to draw lessons for action in India.

The role of media in facilitating such preparedness processes is central. The media needs to deepen the trust of Indian citizens in India's multi-cultural democracy and what is now polyphonic media. Trust—as one of the most trusted journalist in India, Mrinal Pande has recently said in Ahmedabad—springs out of "fruitful two way communication" on nuclear preparedness planning.

A concept which may be especially useful for India to explore for an unlikely nuclear disaster is "Cooperative Preparedness". Such cooperation, across authorities, levels, and states may seem to be a new federalist activity but at Sendai in Japan, Home Minister of India Shri Rajnath Sinhjee has called for "Collaborative Federalism" for disaster risk reduction as a foundation for India's development activities.

The support of over 122 states to the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a reality. May be time has come for India to lead many of these nations in planning preparedness for a nuclear disaster.

It will be very unfortunate to let economic growth achieved with nuclear establishments—total 22 nuclear reactors in operations in 8 nuclear power plants having  a total installed capacity of 6780 MW—to be lost by a nuclear disaster in India.

The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), nodal agency for radiological emergency in India, runs Crisis Management Group (CMG) since 1987 and each site has context specific plans under jurisdiction of local District Administration.

Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai, leaders of India's nuclear development, will only be too happy to see India take such preparedness initiatives at district level.

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 is not too far in time to be forgotten by Indian citizens.

- AIDMI Team

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Delhi-Dhaka Cooperation in Risk Reduction

The implementation of Asia Regional Plan (ARP) for disaster risk reduction is dependent on regional cooperation in Asia. In the region of South Asia, Delhi and Dhaka are most likely to move ahead on this risk reduction path.

During the recent visit of India's Finance Minister to Bangladesh, both the countries signed a credit line agreement worth US$4.5 billion to fund infrastructure, health, and education sectors in Bangladesh.

At the November 2016 Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Delhi both the countries stood out in their positive efforts to reduce risks that their citizens face. The exhaustive breadth of Delhi and Dhaka's initiatives are not amenable easy summation.

Over 17 development projects have been identified for implementation under the credit line. And this development investment offers an opportunity to reduce disaster risk and build regional resilience.

According to Finance Minister of Bangladesh, his team has identified roads, railways and bridges as the most important sectors for utilizing the credit line. Such investment is exposed to disaster risk of floods and cyclones. However, ongoing work on climate change uncertainty and transformation by Indian and Norwegian researchers under the Institute of Development Studies of UK and IIT Mumbai shows that such investments offer an opportunity for transformation.

Of the US$4.5 billion credit deal, US$1b will be spent on the infrastructure development of facilities of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant. The plant will offer energy security to Bangladesh's economic growth plans and will need protection from flood and cyclone damage.

India will be providing credit for upgrading 245km highways — Benapole-Jessore-Narail-Bhanga (135km); Ramgarh-Baruerhat (35km); and Mainamati-Brahmanbaria-Sarail (75km) — considering transit and transshipment facilities and the operation of key Chittagong and Mongla ports. Transportation is becoming a key disaster risk reduction areas. The investment will generate rapid economic activities and would need protection from repeated floods and cyclones.

At least three of the projects involve the development of economic zones, a priority for the Bangladesh government, as it aims to ramp up private sector investment in its plans for rapid economic growth.

Of the total credit, about US$500 million will be used for setting up new economic zones for Indian and other investors, according to the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority. Spreading risk awareness among the investors is a standard practice suggested by Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction signed by both, India and Bangladesh. Several of these zones are exposed to cyclones and floods and mitigation measures will help reduce the risks and build the resilience of the economic activities in these zones.

Over US$100 million will be provided for building a dedicated economic zone spanning 1,005 acres in Mirsarai area of Chittagong.

The health sector is critical to Bangladesh's rapid economic growth. Public health and hygiene are far better covered with risk protection. High end specialty hospitals are yet to be available to many in Bangladesh. Heat action plans, hospital safety audits, will protect this investment. Some of the faith based organisations and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent movements have developed workable models to make health facilities safe from disaster risk.

Another US$100 million may be used for developing a special economic zone at Payra or Moheshkhali area, and US$300 million may be allocated for developing infrastructure in the key economic zones. A large number of workers will be exposed to flood and cyclone risks in these zones and disaster risk awareness training and capacity of the workers will save lives and protect livelihoods in these areas.

Basic education and safer schools are relatively well covered in rural and urban areas in Bangladesh. What is needed is integration of Child Centered Disaster Risk Reduction, Child Protection, Education, and School Environment into one actionable School Safety Plan in each of the schools in Bangladesh. On September 28, 2017 National Disaster Management Authority of India at its formation day celebration has pin pointed safer schools as a key to local disaster risk reduction.
Since 2010, this is the third big credit line which Delhi has committed to Dhaka for regional cooperation.

International Strategy for Disaster Reduction chief Robert Glasser in Cancun, Mexico Global Platform has called for far more deliberate measures to protect development investments from disaster and climate risks. The efforts of Delhi and Dhaka traverse themes, leap effortlessly from mock drill scenario to spontaneous response by most if not all, as envisaged the Asia Regional Plan.

– AIDMI Team

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