The new National Disaster Management Plan has several flaws
The much-awaited National Disaster Management Plan was released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month. The plan closes a critical gap in our disaster management system — while most states and districts have prepared their plans, the national plan that was supposed to guide this process at the sub-national level was missing.
This invited criticism from the Supreme Court, the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament and the Comptroller and Auditor General. Surely the government would no longer be embarrassed for its failure to write a plan even a decade after the mandate of the Disaster Management Act. But India has miles to go if the vision of the plan to ‘make India disaster resilient’ has to be a reality.
There are several problems in the National Disaster Management Plan. First, it fails to lay down a clear and practical roadmap. It is too generic in its identification of the activities to be undertaken by the central and states governments for disaster risk mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery, reconstruction, and governance.
Second, the plan refrains from providing a time frame for undertaking these activities beyond vaguely prescribing that these must be taken up in short, medium, mid- and long-term basis.
Third, the plan does not project the requirement of funds needed for undertaking these activities, nor does it provide any clue as to how funds shall be mobilised for this purpose. The plan further does not provide any framework for monitoring and evaluation of the plan.
In short, the plan is devoid of many important elements that make a good and robust action plan. It may fulfil the formal requirement of law of having a plan but it may not be very effective in achieving its grandiose vision of building resilience.
The activities listed in the plan are nothing new: These are already provided in the Act and in nearly two dozen national guidelines that were developed by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) since 2007. Some of the earlier guidelines did have a timeframe for implementation, but the national plan cautiously refrains from providing any roadmap, probably due to the complexities of the tasks involved.
It is important to recall that the NDMA had earlier developed a framework of developing a comprehensive national plan on disaster management in 14 parts, of which 12 would be mitigation plans, one for capacity development, and one for response.
Various ministries and departments were involved in this exercise and a few plans were also developed, but after the CAG criticised the government for its failure to come out with the national plan, this framework was abandoned and a two-volume report was drafted by the National Executive Committee (NEC) and submitted to the NDMA for approval in 2012. The NDMA decided to junk the NEC drafted plan and prepare the plan de novo at its level without following the eight-step process that the NDMA itself had adopted for developing such documents.
The plan is aligned with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable Development Goals, but unlike in the Sendai Framework or the SDGs, the plan does not set any goals or targets, nor does it spell out how the Sendai goals and targets shall be achieved.
Therefore the national plan needs to be supplemented by national roadmaps for disaster resilience with clear goals, targets, timeframe, and ideas about how resources shall be mobilised for its implementation.
PG Dhar Chakrabarti is distinguished fellow, The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi
The views expressed are personal