In a first, the Uttarakhand government is set to rope in scientific experts into the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) – the apex body for disaster management – to revamp the hill state’s response to natural calamities.
In principle agreement has been arrived at to bolster the structure of the SDMA, under which representatives of expert scientific institutions will be inducted as special invitee members. The proposal for organisational restructuring will soon be placed before the state cabinet, officials said.
“The aim is to get the best scientific knowledge because we remain limited to the traditional methods of dealing with disaster management which include rescue, relief and rehabilitation,” state disaster management secretary Amit Negi told Hindustan Times.
“By roping in scientific experts, we will be able to harness our technical know-how and related techniques to better our response to disasters,” he said.
Underlining how climate change was inducing disasters in the hill state, Negi said, “Through the new organisational structure (which will include scientists), we’d be able to carry out crucial studies like those of the river basins, chronic landslide zones, changes in meteorological patterns and forecasting among others, which will have a far-reaching impact on the way disasters are dealt with in the state.”
The SDMA was set up as an autonomous body in 2007 with a vision to implement an integrated approach to disaster management in Uttarakhand – a Himalayan state highly prone to disasters where earthquakes, landslides, flash floods and cloudbursts are an annual feature.
It is worth recalling that a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, tabled in the state assembly in 2015, had pulled up the SDMA for being “virtually non-functional” as well as the state government and its line departments for their lack of preparedness to tackle the large-scale damages caused by the 2013 disaster.
Over 5,300 people have lost their lives to natural disasters in Uttarakhand since its formation in 2000, of which around 5000 had died in during the 2013 flash floods – referred to as “the Himalayan Tsunami”.