Disaster preparedness

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The Nagaland State Disaster Management Authority will conduct the Nagaland Emergency Preparedness Exercise (NEPEx), a mega mock drill, on November 21 all over the State simultaneously. This is the third time that such exercise is being conducted in the State to test the capability of the State machinery to handle any kind of disasters. The State machinery so far appears incapable to handle disasters that befall the State, as is evident every year during monsoon. This year, the NEPEx is simulating an extreme weather calamity in the State as we have been facing extreme weather phenomenon for the past few years. The thing is nothing is taken seriously in Nagaland by anybody -political leaders, Government officials and the citizens. The annual mock drill is an important exercise as it tests the capability and preparedness of the State machinery to handle disaster, especially considering that every monsoon our people suffer due to landslides as well as floods in different parts of the State. Sadly disaster management is not given much importance by those in authorities and the citizens. For us, disaster management is conducting a one-day mass social work sponsored by the State Government ahead of the monsoon season to clear drainage and pray for the best. This mentality must be changed starting from those at the helm of affairs in the State. Every year our State experience natural disasters like floods, windstorms, landslides, etc. which highlights the need to take disaster risk reduction measures and reduce our vulnerability to natural hazards. A few millimeters of rain almost turns out a tsunami for us. A lot of debate is done about the disaster management system only when rains create havoc with life and property. Hardly we see governments ready to face any eventuality like floods or landslides as they are always short of proper response. Ours being a geographically remote location has always remained vulnerable to weather vagaries. We don’t need scientific inventions to forecast such vulnerabilities as we have the distinction of being the place where four seasons are well demarcated. It’s here government and non-governmental organisations are supposed to be prepared with disaster management plans whether those happen or not. Time and again we have witnessed a few millimetres of rain at our place creating disastrous situation. Normal activities get halted with loss of life and property. Lack of preparedness to handle wet weather conditions turn into a catastrophe. No doubt, disasters occur worldwide, but we are more adversely affected due to lack of preparedness and other infrastructural facilities to mitigate such risks. As a society we believe in reactive planning and post-crisis management. If we take steps for correct prioritization, anticipatory planning, we can prevent a natural calamity turning into a major disaster. We need preparedness and to be pro-active. We have witnessed a chain of disasters happening through weather changes, including floods and landslides which swept peace and prosperity of the people. The rehabilitation of the victims is still a serious challenge. Even as rainfall is a natural phenomenon, never has there been any effort to keep ourselves ready to meet any serious intensity of the weather fury. We have adopted an approach with a mere response to the occurrence of disasters. Natural hazards like floods, landslides and earthquakes cannot be avoided. But at least with sound and tested mitigation measures in place we can prevent these vulnerabilities turning into major disasters. What we need is to build a safer and disaster resilient Nagaland by developing a holistic, proactive, multi hazard and technology driven strategy for disaster management. For this, a culture of prevention, mitigation and preparedness to generate a prompt and efficient response at the time of disaster is required. There is also a need for linkage between the institutions of disaster management, development planning, and environmental management. Disaster reduction should be everybody’s concern. All of us need to do our part to raise awareness and reduce our vulnerability to future hazards. Disaster risk reduction is about stronger building codes, proper land use planning, improvised early warning systems, environmental management and evacuation plans and, above all, education. It is about making communities and individuals aware of their risk to natural hazards and how they can reduce their vulnerability. As said, we cannot stop natural calamities, but hopefully, we can be better equipped as individuals and communities to withstand them.