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Disaster management to get better

Govt aims to join hands with corporate and scientific communities to develop a robust system, reports Aloke Tikku.

india Updated: Nov 29, 2006 23:20 IST

A 20-kiloton nuclear weapon explosion over central Delhi could necessitate treatment to nearly 5-7 lakh people for acute radiation syndrome, medium-term treatment to another 25-30 lakh asymptomatic people and radiation dose assessment and medical advisory to another 2-3 crore people.

All this would need to be done in the midst of a breakdown of services as well as law and order, exodus, confusion and initial individual and societal inertia in the face of a calamity.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday kicked off the first congress of disaster management experts that is drawing up scary scenarios of nuclear explosions, earthquakes, landslides, floods, tsunami and cyclones, like the nuclear attack on Delhi over two days, and put their heads together to come up with best coordinated response during those difficult times.

The discussions - that will continue through Thursday - were part of the paradigm shift that the prime minister spoke about on Wednesday; from relief-centric response to a regime that lays greater emphasis on preparedness, prevention and mitigation.

Singh noted that the draft national policy on disaster management – that has been in the works for several years now and at last count, is due for finalisation by this year-end – also placed a greater emphasis on efficient management of disasters.

On his part, Singh declared his government's commitment to develop a "robust disaster management system" in close collaboration with the corporate sector, community-based organisations and the scientific community.

"Disaster management needs a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approach. This is an attempt to bring people working on disaster related areas on one platform and share assessments and solutions," PG Dhar Chakarbarti, executive director of the National Institute of Disaster Management that organised the congress, said, echoing Home Secretary VK Duggal.

The prime minister promised that the government had the requisite political will. He, however, cautioned that the quality of disaster management could not be improved in isolation but as part of normal structures.

"Nor should we create parallel structures at the cost of regular administration," he said, laying stress on "better support structures" that make responses to disaster "more efficient, more rapid and more effective".

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi emphasised on the criticality of a good communication system to ensure a credible system of reaching out to the people.

Gandhi also suggested that more attention be paid to environment and expressed concern over damage to coastlines and ignoring soil and seismic conditions before taking up construction work.

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First Published: Nov 29, 2006 16:15 IST