Thursday 15 February 2018

Why DDMP should be Child Centric? —Ten Reasons

Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, Country Representative, UNICEF launched Child-Centric District Disaster Management Plan, Raipur along with Prasanta Dash, CFO UNICEF Chhattisgarh; O.P. Choudhary, District Collector Raipur; Nileshkumar Kshirsagar, CEO, Jila Panchayat Raipur (right to left); December 22, 2017, Chhattisgarh.
District Disaster Management Plans (DDMPs) are important policy instruments that help in disaster governance at the sub-national and local level in India. Mandated by the Disaster Management Act of 2005, these DDMPs have become increasingly central in guiding administration's response to a disaster or emergency. The following ten points capture the importance of having child-centric DDMPs:

  1. Children are a vulnerable group primarily because of their age. Their dependency on adults for food, hygiene, care, shelter and protection has bearing on their survival and development.
  2. During the last decade of the 20th century, disasters affected an estimated 66 million children around the world each year (children typically represent 50-60 percent of those affected by a disaster). This number is projected to more than triple over the coming decades.
  3. In the aftermath of a disaster, children face a range of risks, from death, injuries, and diseases related to malnutrition, to poor water and sanitation, and psychological trauma and its debilitating effects. Displacement and separation from guardians and support networks, and the increased impoverishment of already poor households further exposes children to abuse, exploitation, and trafficking. Further adding to the long-term effects of disasters is the disruption of education during critical development years.
  4. Children's rights to survival, clean water, food, health, sanitation, shelter, education and protection are compromised by disaster risk and climate change. When a disaster occurs, schools are frequently used as shelters, depriving children of their learning spaces. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have inalienable rights in all circumstances - including during disasters when they are most exposed to risks. Children also have the right to participate in decisions that affect them, risk reduction and resilience building decisions at district level.
  5. Governments in South Asia have demonstrated their commitment to the survival, development and protection of children by being signatories of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989 and its two Optional Protocols in 2000. They have further adopted the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children in 1990. Regionally, the Heads of States and Governments of South Asia signed the SAARC Convention on Regional Arrangements on the Promotion of Child Welfare in South Asia in 2002 and adopted the SAARC Social Charter in 2004, which places strong emphasis on the promotion of the rights and well-being of the child. School Safety Guidelines of National Disaster Management Authority, Government of India, focus light upon the urgent need to strengthen risk resilience of schools in urban as well as rural areas of the country.
  6. Child-centred DRR and programming for children have long-term development gains for children and for the society at large. Investments in child health, nutrition, education and child protection not only result in child survival, development and well-being but also in poverty reduction and increased resilience of societies to withstand shocks and stresses. Participation, empowerment and equitable development further help stabilizing fragile states and building stable societies.
  7. In 2000, all South Asian governments endorsed the Millennium Development Goals with six out of eight goals related directly to children. South Asia governments have also played an active role in formulating the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals that are emerging as a result of the post-2015 development debate.
  8. Vulnerability assessment is a critical task for governments working for the survival, well-being and protection of their citizens. Children's vulnerability and exposure to disaster risk are largely shaped by their birthplace and the period in which they are born. The socioeconomic status and educational level of family members also matter and so do their own physical and mental condition.
  9. A child-centred risk assessment brings children onto the national DRR and CCA agendas by making use of child vulnerability data from sectors such as health, nutrition, WASH, education and child protection. The point is that child vulnerabilities often serve as a better proxy for community vulnerabilities than monetary values used by insurance companies and development banks. This is particularly true for South Asia, a region with a high proportion of children and youth. 'SAARC Framework for Care, Protection and Participation of Children in Disasters' emphasis on the need for mainstreaming the issues of children in the policies, strategies, programmes of projects in all relevant sectors including DRR and emerging management in South Asia.
  10. Migration, urbanization, slum settlements and rapid growth contribute to the risk profile of South Asia. Population movements from rural to urban areas remain unplanned. People from rural areas often end up living in slums as squatters in cities due to lack of affordable and safe shelters. The region has nine mega-cities with a population of more than 10 million including Delhi, Mumbai, Karachi, Dhaka, Kolkata, Lahore, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad. While most countries have adopted national land-use policies and implemented area-based development plans in priority areas, no countries have enforced comprehensive spatial planning. Although natural hazard maps are available, seismic, landslide and flood assessments have rarely been incorporated into development plans. In most South Asian countries building codes are seen as complex and costly, and building standards rarely enforced.

All the aforementioned reasons have enhanced the exposure and vulnerability of children in South Asia to multiple disaster risks. Therefore, the district disaster management plans (DDMPs) of the region should be child centric to protect the children against such risks.

– Vandana Chauhan and Brij Chauhan, AIDMI

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Tuesday 13 February 2018

Coastal Preparedness and Response in India

India has the longest coastline among all the countries in South Asia. The country's 7,517 kms of coastline gives it unparalleled access to the seas, it also makes India highly prone to coastal disasters such as cyclones, storm surges and tsunamis. The coastal areas and coastal communities of India that bear a major brunt of these disasters must appear more often in the disaster management plans of various states and districts. Oddly enough, this is not the case.

As mentioned earlier, the coastal areas face an increasing risk of cyclones, floods and salinity ingress in addition to tsunamis. The delta areas, such as the Sundarbans, are especially vulnerable.

Recent cyclone Okhi in November and December, 2017 caused severe damages to structures and property claiming the lives of 218 lives in the Southern parts of Tamilnadu and Kerala in India.

The Government of Gujarat has decided to establish a satellite-based tracking and warning system on about 12,000 fishing boats at a cost of 95 crore INR.

Maharashtra has begun colour-coding fishing boats district-wise rather than assigning a common colour to all boats registered in the state. Since 2015, the Mumbai police have been using 18 boats to patrol Mumbai's coastline every day.

Kerala had set up a coastal police force to add an extra layer of protection and prevent the intrusion of any anti-national elements or illicit items through the sea. (PwC, 2017)

India is investing public money to develop ports and harbours. Private corporations—Indian and others— are investing in coastal ports and harbours as they have the potential to become the hub of economic activity in the country in the next 3 to 5 years.

An estimated US$ 18.6 billion will be invested in major ports and US$ 28.5 billion in non-major ports by 2020. Under the Sagarmala Programme, the Government of India has envisioned a total of 189 projects for modernisation of ports involving an investment of INR 1.42 trillion (US$ 22 billion) by the year 2035. (IBEF, 2017)

One of the key areas for coastal preparedness and response is mobility and connectedness after a disaster. In the aftermath of a disaster, the citizens often get cut from land and sea both, and have to wait for days or over weeks for basic heavy supply of food, water and health inputs. Seaplanes offer one more choice to deliver relief and rescue on land and in sea to Indian citizens.

Seaplanes, planes that land and take-off from sea (or large suitable water body) may be a step in the direction of coastal preparedness and response in India.

The Transport Ministry as well as Civil Aviation Ministry have shown interest in developing seaplanes as an additional measure to connect citizens and growing trade and commerce within India and abroad. 

The interest in widespread use of seaplanes is also shown by private sector organizations such as Spice Jet in India, which has announced a plan to buy 100 seaplanes from Setouchi Holdings, Japan.

Spice Jet is a private airline in India recovering, from an economic loss with vitality and vision.

Setouchi Holdings of Japan is a leading actor in seaplane making and related investments. 

In many ways seaplanes offer connectivity for disaster response and preparedness in coastal areas.

Last month, China unveiled its domestically developed AG600, a massive four-engined amphibian plane that can carry 50 people and suck in upto 12 tonnes of water in 20 seconds for firefighting operations. Such crafts can deliver a wide range of relief supplies in coastal areas and ports.

Russia has the Beriev Be-200, a twinjet amphibian that's mainly used for firefighting operations. It also manufactures ekranoplans, which skim a short distance over water at great speed. They are distinct from hovercraft in not requiring a cushion of air. Be-200 remain close to sea water.

As a follow up to National Disaster Management Plan, India is developing a national community development road map. This road map will include, special roles for coastal states such as Andhra Pradesh on the east and Gujarat on the west coast.

The ongoing World Bank program in coastal India titled Integrated Coastal Zone Management has so far depended only on existing modes of transport. It has not explored the potential use of seaplanes in both, preparedness and response in coastal areas such as Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. 

Perhaps the most important need is to initiate a scoping study that not only reviews the existing needs but also looks at emerging transportation needs from the point of view of the National Disaster Response Force in coastal locations.

— AIDMI Team

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Thursday 8 February 2018

Retelling Disasters

Disasters are often viewed as abrupt cataclysmic events that cause widespread death and destruction. However, it should always be borne in mind that disasters are complex phenomena that culminate due to a variety of underlying factors. Reducing them to isolated and abrupt events dilutes the narrative surrounding disasters, which in turn limits our understanding of them. Thus, it is important to focus on the narrative surrounding disasters by telling or retelling their stories.

Hardly any telling or retelling of stories of disasters is taking place in spite of the fact that disasters offer one of the most dramatic stories to tell. Similarly, the literature from the area is so loaded with jargons that it rarely is understandable or appealing to those who should know about disasters: at risk citizens.

Fortunately, there is a welcome break from this trend. Dr. R.K. Bhandari has authored "Disasters:  Short Stories, Essays & Anecdotes," published by National Book Trust (NBT), India (171 pages, September 2017).

Dr. R.K. Bhandari is an icon in the field of housing, settlement planning and risk reduction with over five decades of contribution to India's growing urban and housing sectors.

The book is of use to both, students in school as well as to the citizens of India with interest in new ideas and insights emerging from Indian experience.

AIDMI had the opportunity to work with Dr. Bhandari when the High Powered Committee was set up by the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to review India's relief and rehabilitation administrations. Those who have worked with Dr. Bhandari know that he moves from one task to another with ease and clarity finishing each task effortlessly.

NBT is India's leading public domain publication effort to capture all that is best of India in the form of books for experts and citizens alike.

NBT needs to continue the disaster theme as a series of publications covering important individuals whose stories must be told as well as the disasters that are worth recording in stories for both general as well as educational purpose.

Dr. Bhandari tells the reader that traditional methods for testing new ideas, insights, products and process to reduce risk are becoming expensive, even when done as pilot studies, they consume time and resources. A highly agile approach that is based on flexible problem solving and innovation is needed in India. 

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) needs to be solution focused and action oriented. How can India keep logic, imagination, institution, and systematic reasoning away from each other to explore our way ahead to a safer India? All must be merged into stories, powerful and compelling.

Indian disasters are a bit special.  Any flood or drought or cyclones get a bit tinted with Indian colours when told outside UN reports and government memorandum. P. Sainath, India's eminent journalist, in his book "Everybody Loves a Good Drought" has made this clear. Droughts in India gain their own life and persona. Dr. Bhandari gives us more evidence in this direction in his book. Once read and rested, the reader gets a clear view that disaster risk cannot be reduced by anyone acting alone-UN or government or NGOs or citizens-but only through coordinated action by all. Unless we as Indians unite across all categorisations, we cannot reduce disaster risk and build a resilient India.

Since 2005, the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute's (AIDMI's) regular publication called has been empowering at risk local communities and authorities by telling their stories of resilience. Documenting disasters and community voices around them has indeed proven that disasters in India do have a persona of their own and only through a united effort could India achieve resilience against these disasters.

Perhaps this is what India should focus on in its offer to South Asia to connect India's powerful National Knowledge Network (NKN) for sharing scientific database and remote access to advance research facilities.

NKN is a multi-gigabit pan-India network which facilitates the development of India's communications infrastructure, stimulates key research and creates next generation applications and knowledge services. NKN enables collaboration among researchers from different educational networks such as TEIN4, GARUDA, CERN and Internet2. NKN also enables sharing of scientific databases and remote access to advanced research facilities. Such stories can be a welcome addition to NKN in South Asia.

With its multi-gigabit capability, NKN aims to connect all universities, research institutions, libraries, laboratories, healthcare and agricultural institutions across the country to address paradigm shift. The leading mission oriented agencies in the fields of nuclear, space and defence research are also part of NKN. To strengthen research facility in various critical and emerging areas for NKN community, the network has established its international points of presence (PoP) in Geneva, Amsterdam and Singapore, and plans to soon establish a PoP in New York too. Let disaster stories populate the NKN for a joint web connect on DRR. 

— AIDMI Team

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National School Safety Program: Reflections

Safer Schools are one of the top ten ways to ensure that National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP) launched in June 2016 achieves success in making India reduce risk and build resilience.

The "National School Safety Programme (NSSP)—A Demonstration Project" approved by Government of India in June, 2011 with a total cost outlay of Rs. 48.47 Crore was a 100% Centrally Sponsored Demonstrative Project. It was implemented by National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and in partnership with the State and UT Governments within an initial time frame of 24 months.

NSSP was a holistic project to promote the culture of Safety in Schools and is covered 200 schools in each of the selected 43 districts spread over 22 States/UTs of the country falling in seismic zone IV & V.

The highlights of the NSSP: 
•  NSSP was designed to cover both the Stru
   cultural and Non-Structural measures, especially to reduce the risk from Earth Quake and Fire
   Hazards in the School.
•  Since its inception, NSSP built a good partnership between Local Governments and Civil Society.
•  Appropriate and innovative approaches were undertaken in this process.
•  The ICT/IEC tools were developed at National Level and shared among the implementing partners 
    to outreach the targeted schools and school students.
•   NSSP initiated mainstreaming the process with Ministry of Human Resources Development and 
    Education Departments at National and State level respectively.
•   The NSSP focused on Development of School DM Plan, DM kit for each of the selected schools, 
    Training of schools staffs, trainers and engineers in various aspect of school safety. Mock drills are      regular affair and developing a training manual for teachers and management and students is a  
    way  ahead.

The communication tools were developed at the National Level embedding all the best practices and products collected from a varied number of expert agencies/organisations and shared among the implementing partners to outreach the targeted schools and school students.

Dialogues and debates started at National and State level to mainstream the process with Ministry of Human Resources and Education Departments at National and State level respectively. Several states such as Assam and Odisha, Gujarat and Bihar have taken innovative steps.

The partnership needs to be built up or further strengthened with the Ministry of Human Resources and Education Departments, those who can really make some differences in terms of structural, non-structural measures and behaviour change among the students and the peers and it has happened in a few states.

The experience of those states may be replicated among others and convince them to take lead for Safer Schools, while investing for the infrastructural development and innovative methods of pedagogy. This is because, in our country, if we are trying to cover the most vulnerable schools then it can be only those schools in rural areas having minimum or no infrastructural facilities and being covered under various National/State programmes of Education Department for their improvements.

The number of such schools in rural India is very high as compared to the public schools in urban areas having good infrastructural facilities and strong awareness on Safety Measures.

A time has came to mount a national effort for making schools safe and secure in India.

– AIDMI Team
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