Five months post disaster, Uttarakhand still lacks disaster plan

    By Richa Sharma, IANS,

    New Delhi : Nearly five months after devastating floods ravaged the hill state, Uttarakhand is yet to formulate a disaster management plan to meet any future calamity.

    According to the disaster management authority, as of now only 19 states in the country have a mandatory state disaster management plan (SDMP) – and Uttarakhand is among the defaulters.

    “We have not yet received any disaster management plan from Uttarakhand. All states need to be proactive in preparing disaster management plans as comprehensive planning will help at the time of any natural or man-made disaster,” National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Vice Chairman M. Shashidhar Reddy told IANS in an interview.

    Uttarakhand witnessed devastating flash floods in June, leaving hundreds dead and thousands homeless.

    Reddy says there is an urgent need to change the focus and mindsets of the people and the government machinery as well towards disaster management and disaster preparedness.

    “Our approach to disaster management should not be limited to rescue and relief operations but preparedness to handle it. What disaster preparedness can do was proven during the Phailin cyclone as it helped in saving lives of thousands,” said Reddy.

    The NDMA, an apex body whose mandate is to prepare for natural and man-made disasters and which is headed by the prime minister, was praised for averting any major loss to life during the cyclone.

    In fact, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while praising the role of NDMA in tackling Cyclone Phalin, said there were “important lessons to be learnt” from the Uttarakhand-rain-flood tragedy which “severely tested the efficacy of our disaster response mechanisms”.

    But the state government, despite several reminders from the NDMA, is yet to chalk out its disaster management plan.

    According to another NDMA official, states like Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Assam, Bihar and Gujarat have put in place a proper state disaster plan but many others like Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have not responded even after several reminders.

    “The sad part is that even after facing a devastating disaster, Uttarakhand has not yet sent any disaster management proposal for clearance and comments to NDMA,” the senior official said.

    “Many states don’t even have a separate department to handle disaster preparedness and related work,” the official told IANS.

    In April, a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report had revealed that the Uttarakhand State Disaster Management Authority, which was formed in October 2007, has never met till date.

    Nor has it made any “rules, regulations, policies or guidelines”, a preliminary step for the authority to have any functional meaning.

    The CAG report further highlighted that the authority had not prepared any disaster management plan to cope with unseen situations, like the flash floods.

    (Richa Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])