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Preventing natural disasters

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By: Alee khan

The cyclone named YAS in the Bay of Bengal after the storm that rose from the Arabian Sea has caused great economic damage to the country which will probably take many years to recover. It is evident that the arrival of cyclones in the Bay of Bengal is not new and on many occasions stormed have hit the bay and caused a lot of destruction. People living here remember that a catastrophic cyclone named ‘Bhola’ in 1970s had caused great damage and more than 5 lakh people had lost their lives. At the same time, the havoc of Gorki cyclone that came in 1991 is also in the minds of the people due to which about one and a half lakh people lost their lives.

Every year, a new natural or other kind of calamity befalls people in some form or the other in the country. This disaster strikes in the form of floods, landslides, earthquakes, cyclones or tsunamis and we have not forgotten the havoc wrecked by these disasters during the last few years, whether it was the August 2015 landslide in Manikaran, the tragedy that struck Uttarakhand in 2013, the Amfan that came last year or the cyclones that hit the east coast, which went by the name of Hudhud and Phailin.

While the entire world, including India, is facing the worst pandemic –Corona Virus-the YAS cyclone in the Bay of Bengal and the Tokte storm that rose from the Arabian Sea caused great damage and destruction. Tjhis is high time that we must introspect and try to scientifically decipher the message of nature and take corrective measures. As scientific studies have shown, the main reason behind the rise of storms is the warming of sea-water as the magnitude of the storms rising from the sea will increase due to this factor.

We all know why the sea temperature is increasing. The reason behind this is clearly the increase of greenhouse gases in the environment. In such a situation, it is necessary that we reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. However, whenever the question of reducing the emission of greenhouse gases arises, the global conferences on this issue are literary taken for a ride by the developing countries and the rich and developed countries alike as these are the countries which emit the highest amount of carbon in the environment. How can we expect any improvement in the situation arising out of this, if the current trend of developed and rich countries remains unchanged and ignorant? Despite this, there is no shortage of concern on this issue globally and there is hope for improvement in the situation but if we make a strong arrangement to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases permanently, then it is very possible that we can avoid such impending calamities in future.

Thanks to the scientific findings that this time we received early warning of a cyclone in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal which gave people an opportunity to migrate to safe areas. Due to this, much of death and destruction was avoided.  In such a situation, it becomes necessary that the poor and the needy should be made to stay in safe shelters and the Central as well as the State Government should take the initiative to make permanent houses for those living on the margins and facing the most severe threat to their lives in such circumstances.

There are many natural and man-made calamities of varying intensity that India experiences and about 58.6% of the terrain is normal to very high intensity earthquake prone area. Over 40 million hectares, i.e 12% of the total land is prone to floods and river erosion. In addition, 68 percent of the arable area is likely to be dry. At the same time, there is a risk of landslides and avalanches in most of the mountainous regions of India. Statistics show that between 1980 and 2010 in India, droughts occurred  seven times, earthquake sixteen  times, pandemic  56 times, extreme heat 38 times, flood 184 times, massive drought 34 times, hurricane 92 times, volcanoes have occurred 2 times besides some other minor issues.

In such a situation, what could be the effective ways to prevent natural disasters- scientific studies say that it is not possible to prevent natural disasters completely but the damage caused by natural disasters can be minimized. It is important that worldwide safety instructions are followed while coming up with infrastructure such as dams, roads, bridges, flyovers, railway lines, power stations, water storage, towers, irrigation canals, delta water distribution systems, river and coastal embankments, ports and other civil utility. Both environmental protection and developmental efforts need to be carried out simultaneously and along with this, steps should be taken to maintain ecological balance by realizing the need to plant saplings on more and more land.

In order to maintain ecological balance and sustainable development, forests, coastal areas, rivers, agriculture, urban environment and industrial environment and ecosystems need to be monitored and regulated. Today, due to the changes in climate, the intensity of natural disasters has increased and in such a situation, climate change-friendly actions need to be encouraged and promoted to deal with these challenges in a sustainable and effective manner. There is a dire need to adopt an integrated, collaborative and proactive approach to existing and new institutional arrangements in dealing with a disaster. Along with this, we have to move forward by becoming well acquainted with the power of nature and acknowledging its importance.

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