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Call for early warning against disasters

By Our Staff Reporter

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, MARCH 14. The need for developing early warning systems for mitigating the impact of natural disasters was stressed at a seminar on the topic, `Coping strategies in the context of natural disasters', at the Centre for Development Studies here on Thursday.

The senior consultant with the ILO, J. Krishnamurthy, said an early warning system on natural disasters should be planned by paying attention to the question of averting disasters in the future, mitigating the impact and ensuring timely flow of information to the people, especially the marginalised and vulnerable groups like tribals.

Such an early warning system should be viewed as a participative human exercise with two-way flow of information - it is not enough that the Meteorological Department issues a warning, but it should be ensured that the information is received and accepted by people. The credibility and timeliness of information flow should be improved by putting modern scientific systems to better use, such as using remote sensing technology to simulate the effect of disasters.

Disaster preparedness involved the construction and maintenance of shelters, safeguarding of food and essential supplies, making of contingency plans for immediate relief and work opportunities, creating structures to advise and assist people when disaster strikes and having ready transport and other equipment like tents, boats, excavation tools. The impact of natural disasters can thus be minimised through careful planning.

A top-down disaster management plan at the official level cannot work and every such plan should be local-specific, keeping in mind the peculiarities of different States. Preventive strategies and rapid response to disasters works better if local planning systems are strengthened, he added.

Mr. Krishnamurthy felt that poverty reduction is an essential element in disaster mitigation and increased coping capacity. Improving the access of the poor to assets and diverse employment opportunities will reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards.

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