Two-thirds of Maharashtra’s villages are reeling under severe drought, but this is just one of the many natural disasters the state is prone to, a new document reveals.
The newly unveiled Maharashtra disaster management policy has listed a series of catastrophic situations - 28 of the state’s 36 districts, including Mumbai, are vulnerable to floods; Mumbai and Thane district, areas along the Western Ghats, Nanded and Osmanabad are vulnerable to earthquakes; the Konkan region, which includes Mumbai, is vulnerable to cyclones; some 70% of the state lies in a semi-arid region, making it prone to water scarcity, an issue the state is currently facing. Some parts of Maharashtra like Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, and areas in Mumbai like Vikhroli, Kanjurmarg and Mulund are prone to landslides too.
Armed with the information, the policy proposes sweeping changes in the way the state will prepare for disasters. Among the measures is the setting up of disaster management panels at every village and getting every government department to plan its response to a disaster, among others.
The report, prepared by the State Disaster Management Authority’s Disaster Management Unit, was approved on April 27 by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who also heads the authority.
One of the ways in which the state proposes to be prepared is by mapping hazards, risks and vulnerabilities specific to every district and setting up disaster management committees at every level, starting from the villages, that will ink plans on how to deal with disasters effectively. It also proposes for the government to make it mandatory for cities to include in their development plans how to prepare for disasters .
The policy has also aims to involve local communities in vulnerable areas to ensure a stronger response .
Suhas Divse, the director of the state disaster management cell, said the government has fine-tuned its approach to disasters.
“Instead of only responding to events when they happen, we are now putting in place mechanisms and processes so that our responses are effective. Ultimately, our aim is that we integrate the idea of disaster-preparedness in our planning and development, so that all that we build is sustainable.”
Divse said the state’s response was now going to be more holistic. “We are trying to also say disaster management is not a standalone subject, it involves a mix of urbanisation, climate change, environment and many other subjects and is a complex mix. For better preparedness, we need to prepare better in all these subjects,” he said.