UEVRP: Mainstreaming Disaster Preparedness
Around 59 percent of the total land in India is vulnerable to earthquakes. A lack of awareness and capacity to cope with the calamity accentuates the loss of lives and livelihoods. UNDP India addresses this lacuna together with the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Disaster PreparednessThe project on Urban Earthquake Vulnerability Reduction covers 38 cities in an effort to prepare communities against earthquake vulnerability. Each of these cities have a population of over half a million and fall within the seismic zones of III to V. These are medium to high risk zones.
- Support to people in 38 cities to prepare against earthquake vulnerability in partnership with Ministry of Home Affairs
- Greater awareness in cities of earthquake preparedness focused on five areas: greater awareness, need for legal framework for disaster management, knowledge networking, training and capacity building, and preparedness plans
- Training on skills development to over 9000 self-help groups on issues ranging from health, sanitation to disaster preparedness
- Targeted and sensitized architects, masons, engineering colleges and other stakeholders to earthquake-resistant building practices
The Urban Earthquake Vulnerability Reduction project falls under the broader UNDP India initiative on Vulnerability Reduction through Disaster Risk Management. While the Ministry of Home Affairs is the national partner, the project is implemented through the district administration is each city. The five focus areas in this project are: Awareness, Techno-legal regime (creating a legal framework for disaster management), Knowledge Networking, Training and Capacity Building, and Preparedness Plans. This multi-pronged strategy has helped cities become aware and prepared in the event of an earthquake.
Community preparation is the key
Over 9000 self-help groups function in Vijayawada. They receive training on skills development from the municipality and are sensitized on issues ranging from health, sanitation to disaster preparedness. “Through the training and sensitization sessions by the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC), there is a level of awareness among the women of the Self-help groups (SHGs). We use our knowledge to inform the others in our communities. This year, when we heard of floods and earthquakes in other parts of the state, we realized that we need to be ready. Though we don’t have a concrete plan, we talk about what can be done within the SHGs”, said B. Lakshmi. It is through women like B. Lakshmi and their SHGs that the project is mobilizing community participation for disaster preparedness. Over 9000 SHGs are functional under various central and state government schemes in the VMC area alone.
Preparation, Mitigation and Management
It is not enough for the community alone to be prepared. They need back-up with preventive measures that can ameliorate if not avoid a disastrous situation. The UNDP initiative emphasizes the importance of a strict techno-legal regime. Such a regime espouses firm laws and practices on hazard-proof constructions. Architects, masons, engineering colleges and other stakeholders have been targeted and sensitized to earthquake-resistant building practices. The VMC has also tabled bye-laws that will ensure that building plans approved by the corporation will henceforth be earthquake-proof. The bye-laws were drafted in consultation with architects, contractors, builders and other stakeholders. They are yet to be enacted. But on the ground, the practice is already in place: “Even if earthquake-proof requirements are not part of the plan, I still use what I learnt in the training sessions. They are very useful and practical,” said Moses, one of the masons trained in the project.
In Mangalore, sensitive construction bye-laws are already in place. Only plans that are compliant with the laws are approved. The Mangalore District Collectorate has put a disaster action plan in place. It links various organizations – schools, colleges, government offices – with the fire department, medical emergency services and the home guards. The coordination between these entities will ensure minimum losses in the event of a disaster. Mock drills are carried out frequently with the participation of all stakeholders and beneficiaries to put a system into place – from evacuations to calling the fire force to mock rescues. The drills also expose the weaknesses of a disaster plan in turn, ensuring improvements and better preparedness.
From Preparedness to Mainstreaming
The training, awareness sessions and coordinated mock drills ensure the creation of a systemic framework of disaster preparedness from communities to municipal and district-level authorities. The way forward is to ensure that links are created between the existing risk reduction initiatives and awareness at the community level to development plans at the district and state levels. This will ensure that contingencies are in place in the event of a disaster causing lesser disruptions and faster response and rehabilitation.