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HindustanTimes Fri,26 Dec 2014

Govt tall claims drown in rain

Gaurav Bisht , Hindustan Times  Shimla, June 20, 2013
First Published: 01:06 IST(20/6/2013) | Last Updated: 01:08 IST(20/6/2013)

Tall claims of disaster management by the state government were exposed by monsoon rains in Himachal Pradesh as the rains in the past three days damaged several roads, caused residential buildings to collapse and created panic among residents living by rivers.

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The state government has failed to learn from its mistakes when it comes to disaster management - flooding caused by unprecedented rains in tribal Kinnaur district is a glaring example, where the government struggled to carry out relief and rescue operations.

Successive state governments have always announced various plans for the disaster management, but the ground situation has always proved otherwise. Devastating rains in Kinnaur once again brought to fore shortcomings in much-talked about disaster management programme chalked out by the government.

Following rain in Kinnaur, the communication system crippled, there was no electricity for 24 hours, mobile and landline phones did not work, which made the situation grim.

Roads leading to villages and even the main highways connecting the China border were blocked due to landslides - which is one of the most hazardous disasters in the state next to cloud bursting.
Hundreds of villagers across Kinnaur district felt helpless as there was no help coming from anywhere.

Chief minister Virbhadra Singh himself remained stranded in Sangla valley for three days. It was only on Tuesday morning that he flew out from the village in a private chopper.

With hardly any preparation at their end, the government now blames unprecedented rain for the devastation.

Though the state is highly prone to natural disasters, if one goes by the government records, nearly 4,000 people have died in natural disasters in the past four decades.

However, still disasters mitigation has not been serious agenda for both the private and government sector, even as some efforts were made in the past.

Panicked by the situation, the state government called for two teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) from Bathinda. It took 48 hours for NDRF to reach flood-struck areas, but the operation only began late on Wednesday afternoon. Relief work was staggered by fuelling problems in Air Force choppers.

If the state had its own disaster response force, the rescue operations could have started immediately after the devastation.

Call it red tapism or laidback attitude, the government has failed to set up its own state disaster response force in spite of repeated suggestions from the police department.

The state police had chalked out a comprehensive plan to set up SDRF and had sought funds from the government. The police had even set up a core group that was sent to Bathinda to study the pattern of NDRF. But nothing moved on the ground. There was a proposal to train one police battalion in disaster management.

According to the plan, companies of the state disaster response force were to be stationed in Shimla, Una, Mandi and Dharamsala.

Director general of police B Kamal Kumar a week ago wrote to the revenue and home department for setting up SDRF.

During the last CMs' conference on internal security held on June 5, chaired by the Prime Minister, health minister Kaul Singh Thakur, who represented the chief minister, had requested the central government to support the raising and locating of at least one battalion of NDRF in Himachal Pradesh for immediate response to such crisis.

Suggestions

The devastating landslides in HP need more intensive scientific studies
Engineering measures should be focused on landslides
Necessary to prepare zoning maps of landslides and rock fall prone areas through geological and geo-technical studies
The landslide prone areas should be avoided while locating new settlement or buildings
Need to identify glacial lakes
No steps have been taken to establish early warning systems for villages downstream
Need to update glaciological data


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