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City needs a comprehensive disaster plan

Rarely there comes a defining moment in the life of a nation. In the United States of America, it was 9/11. 26/11 was a defining moment for India and, more so, for Mumbai, writes V. Ranganathan.

mumbai Updated: Nov 26, 2009 01:33 IST

Rarely there comes a defining moment in the life of a nation. In the United States of America, it was 9/11. 26/11 was a defining moment for India and, more so, for Mumbai.

A year on, Mumbaiites want to know how well prepared our disaster management system is.

The first disaster management plan for Mumbai was prepared after the Latur earthquake in 1993. It focused on earthquakes and building collapses. The inadequacy of the plan was exposed after the July 2005 floods. It had just not contemplated a calamity of that magnitude. Moreover, it had remained in office cupboards.

The BMC tried to improve the disaster management plan to take care of torrential rain and floods. But 26/11 was another wake-up call. It indicated that Mumbai needs a multidimensional disaster management plan to take care of natural and manmade calamities.

Six months after 26/11, the BMC started preparing a comprehensive plan in collaboration with Earthquakes and Megacities Initiative (EMI), an international NGO. This plan includes:

* Establishing a City Institute of Disaster Management for research, training and education.
* Setting up a state-of-the-art 24-hour Emergency Operation Center at the BMC head office and at all wards.
* Establishing a Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) system to provide voice, data and video communication during disasters.
* Establishing a siren warning system at 300 public places
* Creating awareness through a web portal 'Mumbai Voice' and through online interactive modules
* Providing operational protocol for multi-dimensional disaster management

Every citizen should be aware of the disaster management plan so that he can take appropriate measures in a crisis.
The BMC's ambulance

services and the help line 1298 have been integrated through very high frequency communication and Global Positioning System to provide quick
services

Emergency trauma care should be provided at all hospitals. Crowd and traffic control and media management during disasters should also be part of the plan. All these measures are expected to be ready by March 2011.

Istanbul in Turkey, Makati in the Philippines and Amman in Jordan have disaster management plans cutting across departments. Mumbai can learn from these. Moreover, citizens should participate and ensure the implementation of the plan.

V. Ranganathan is former chief secretary, Maharashtra, and ex-municipal commissioner