'City officials have learnt no lessons from the past' | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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'City officials have learnt no lessons from the past'

mumbai Updated: Sep 06, 2012 01:36 IST
HT Correspondent

The city administration's inadequate response to the heavy downpour on Monday exposed the failure of government authorities who did not learn lessons from weather-related problems, said Tirthankar Roy, professor, economic history and political science, London School of Economics.

Roy spoke to Hindustan Times on Wednesday about his recently launched book –Natural Disasters in Indian History. He was in Mumbai as part of the centenary year celebrations of Oxford University Press, the book's publisher.

According to Roy, Monday's rains were a prime example of how we neglect the importance of geography and do not pay heed to environmental risks.

In his latest book, Roy has analysed some of the greatest natural disasters in India from 1770 to 1935 using a gradient sense of time. His book also dwells on how the responses to disasters in the country have pioneered many initiatives to understand nature better.

“I studied this subject to theorise the issue of environmental risks to human life and the response to it over a period of time. Government agencies such as the Met department were started by the British in 1864 when a cyclone hit Calcutta. This led to collection of weather data and its analysis. Several such initiatives began only after we faced natural disasters. There is a deep failure in the management of our mega cities,” said Roy.

When asked about the present state of disaster response in the country, Roy said agencies such as National Disaster Management Authority should devise policies based on partnership with non-government organisations.

“Each disaster episode is unique, because there are constant geographical changes. We see that every storm is different from the previous one. When you have such a changeable phenomenon, you can't have a rigid response system. We need a coherent response system of state and non-state actors,” added Roy.

Criticising failures in urban planning in cities like Mumbai and New Delhi, Roy said, “The settlement pattern in Mumbai has been allowed to grow in a manner that has made it difficult to improve infrastructure to tackle weather-related problems.”