Are natural disasters man-made?

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    Are natural disasters man-made?

    Syllabus: GS3/ Disaster Management

    In Context

    • Humans have played an important role in enhancing the risk from climate hazards.

    Disasters around the world 

    • Disasters around the world are claiming more and more lives. The consequences of climate change are already on our doorstep. 
      • Recently, three continents were gripped by heat waves. 
      • Massive forest fires have ravaged parts of Greece and Canada. 
      • Two weeks ago, the river Yamuna breached the highest flood level, recorded 45 years ago, and inundated parts of Delhi.

    Man-made causes of Natural disasters

    • Anthropogenic climate change:
      • The frequency and intensity of hazards have increased, and anthropogenic climate change has played a major role in that. 
    • Unsustainability of development planning:
      • Sustainability means emphasising not only economics, but also society and environment.
      • Development translates to infrastructure growth. However, we don’t pay enough attention to whether our development pathways are sustainable. 
      • We have built on floodplains, encroached water bodies, and planned our cities without thinking about sustainability. 
    • Changing landscape of disasters:
      • There are a few different ways in which the landscape of disasters in India has changed. 
      • Some landscapes have changed drastically and exceeded their carrying capacity and this has exacerbated the extent of loss and damage in these areas. 
    • Ecology & habitat loss:
      • Due to population growth, industrial and commercial activity, the fragile ecology is under great stress. 
      • The common threats are deforestation, soil erosion and pressure on restricted land.
      • The conversion of forests for agriculture and exploitation for timber, fodder and fuelwood threaten biodiversity.

    Disaster Management in India

    • National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA): It is the apex statutory body for Disaster Management in India, established through the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
      • The Disaster Management Act envisaged the creation of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), headed by the Prime Minister, and State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) headed by respective Chief Ministers, to spearhead and implement a holistic and integrated approach to Disaster Management in India.
    • National Disaster Response Force (NDRF): Established in 2006, NDRF is the world’s single largest force dedicated to disaster response.
      • It is functioning under the Ministry of Home Affairs, within the overall command, control and leadership of the Director-General.
      • At present, the NDRF consists of 15 battalions from the BSF, CISF, CRPF, ITBP, SSB and Assam Rifles.
      • It is a multi-skilled and high-tech force that effectively responds to all types of natural and man-made disasters, including building collapses, landslides, devastating floods, and cyclones.

    Initiatives by India

    • Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI): Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) was first proposed by India during the 2016 Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in New Delhi.
      • India is taking the lead and offering the expertise of Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (DRI) to its friendly countries.
    • India’s initiative at G20 –  Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group: India has established the first G20 Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group.
    • Countries that make up the G20 hold around 85% of the global GDP and about two-thirds of the world population. 
    • And as human vulnerability to disasters is strongly linked to economic decisions, the G20 is in a unique position to chart a new path of disaster risk-informed decision-making. 

    Suggestions & way ahead

    • The cost of disasters is yet to be determined: For too long, countries have spent billions responding to disasters rather than paying a little upfront to prevent or reduce their impact.
    • Opting for long term solutions: There are no quick-fix solutions to what we are going through; we will have to think about long-term risk assessments, vulnerability assessments, and understand how socioeconomic drivers are worsening the problem in certain communities compared to others in the city.
    • Analysing implications: We have to analyse the implications of imposing a strict carrying capacity in certain regions and not allowing for more urbanisation to happen in certain areas or restricting certain ways in which infrastructure is built. 
      • This need to constantly shorten travel time and to make it easier to connect tourist destinations, for example, has run counter to the ways in which we in the environment space have been talking about preserving, conserving, and building stronger relationships with ecosystems. 
    • Transparency mechanisms:We need to standardise transparency mechanisms to include transparency boards, clearly mentioning the cost, quality and quantity of relief items, social audits and citizens’ reports. 
      • This needs to be the standard practice in all relief operations, both by government and civil society actors.
    • Rural infrastructure and traditional knowledge: We need to build rural infrastructure in the disaster-prone areas in the country but not at the cost of livelihood recovery (climate-resilient, sustainable livelihoods) and meeting of the immediate needs. 
      • The tribal communities in India adopt such low-cost traditional technologies that help them mitigate the impact of natural disasters like drought.
    • Environmental protection is the key: Governments should strictly impose the law and international conventions related to environmental protection.

    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] Are natural disasters man-made? Analyse. Suggest policy measures for efficient ways of Disaster Risk Reduction.