Natural disasters are consequences of a natural hazard like an earthquake, landslide, cyclone, flood, or tsunami which affects human activities. Human vulnerability to disasters is increased by poverty and the risk potential for disasters. A lack of planning, preparedness and appropriate emergency management systems can lead to devastating to human, animal, economic, and environmental. The impact of natural disasters has been reduced by increasing preparedness for them, and when a disaster occurs, rapidly and effectively assessing the impact of same.
Tamil Nadu covers an area of 13, 00,582 kms and has a coastline of about 1,076 kms which is about 15% of the coastline of India. More than 40% of the fisher population lives within 1km of coast and 50% of them live within 2km of the coast. The geographical setting of Tamil Nadu makes the state vulnerable to natural disasters such as cyclones floods and earthquake-induced tsunami. About 8% of the state is affected by five to six cyclones every year, of which two to three are severe. Cyclonic activities on the east coast are more severe than on the west coast, and occur mainly between April-May and October-November. Tamil Nadu is also subjected to annual flooding, including flash floods, cloudburst floods, monsoon floods of single and multiple events, cyclonic floods, and those due to dam bursts or failure. Every year, on average thousands of people are affected, a few hundred lives are lost, thousands are rendered homeless and several hectares of crops are damaged. Tamil Nadu is also prone to very severe damaging earthquakes. Its people feel much more vulnerable to earthquake-induced tsunamis since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which affected the coast of Tamil Nadu is destroying much of the marine biology and severely damaging the ecosystem. Crops, settlements, trees, birds, fishes, wildlife, and properties were destroyed. Precious coral reefs and mangrove areas were crushed by the huge tsunami waves that devastated South India, an environmental and economic setback that could take years to reverse. Power and communications were totally disrupted. The damage to humans, especially women and children, and animal life, was tremendous, resulting in emotional and mental trauma.
Diverse factors, natural and human induced, adverse geo-climatic conditions, topographic features, environmental degradation, population growth, urbanization, industrialization, unscientific development practices etc. play a huge role in accelerating the intensity and frequency of disasters resulting in huge economic losses and human causalities. These, coupled with the impact of climate change and climate variability, are accentuating disaster impacts and underscore the criticality of promoting disaster-resilience and risk reduction practices. The vulnerability of the coastal community became exceedingly evident when Tsunami struck the southern coast of India. Besides Tsunami, the coastal community faces disasters like cyclone and floods periodically. Communities in other hazard prone plains and hilly regions of the State face threats from Landslides, Earthquakes and Floods. Urban flooding is also becoming a growing concern in the State.
There has been a paradigm shift in the focus of Disaster Management, from response-centric covering rescue, relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction to laying greater emphasis on the other elements of disaster management cycle-prevention, mitigation, and preparedness—as a means to avert or soften the impact of future emergencies. The Revenue Administration, Disaster Management and Mitigation Department (RADMMD), is in the process of strengthening disaster management capacity in the State by providing access to essential facilities, creating support systems and building human capacities. To cope effectively with crisis and emergency situations, the department coordinates with the other State departments, policy makers and technical institutions to develop well-defined strategies to manage crises and also to mitigate the risks caused by the same. The Commissioner of Revenue Administration undertakes all activities relating to Disaster Management and Mitigation besides managing relief and rehabilitation activities of any disaster in the State. The Principal Secretary/Commissioner of Revenue Administration is also the Relief Commissioner of the State.
The Department places equal importance on preparedness, response and mitigation to develop a robust disaster management unit in the State. Information on ‘State of the Art’ technology and equipment to be used during emergencies are collected and necessary actions are being taken to strengthen the control rooms in the State and districts. Efforts are also on to strengthen emergency management systems at the Taluk and Sub-divisional levels. The procedures and systems pertaining to preparedness and relief are periodically reviewed and necessary improvements made. Efforts are also being taken to train the personnel in the revenue administration to handle complex disaster situations to bring down its impact on human life or property. Further the department also reiterates the necessity to continuously undertake measures to build capacity among all the disaster management stakeholders and to create awareness among the community members. The State relief Commissioner is the Member of the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), which has the Honorable Chief Minister as its Chairperson.
At the district level, the District Collector has the responsibility for the overall management of disasters. He has the authority to mobilize the response machinery and has been given financial powers to draw money under the provisions of the General Financial Rules/Treasury Codes. All departments of the State Government including the Police, Fire Services, Public Works, Irrigation etc., work in a coordinated manner under the leadership of the District Collector during disasters, except in Metropolitan areas where the Municipal body plays a major role. NGOs have also participated in providing relief, rescue and rehabilitation in recent times.
Relief and Rehabilitation Activities:
During and after any disaster in the State, the department provides relief. Post disaster periodic reviews are made and arrangements made to swiftly disburse relief.
Preparation and Updating of Disaster Management (DM) Plans:
As part of the strengthening of disaster management information systems in the State, it is essential to systematically develop district disaster management plans that will be instrumental for effective preparedness, response and mitigation of disaster risks in the respective districts. The existing plans will be reviewed and updated during the said process. The exercise will be undertaken in all the 32 districts. The same exercise will be undertaken to update State DM plan. Regular mock drills based on the DM plans are being planned in the State and Districts.
Strengthening of Emergency Operation Centers in the State/Districts:
Sensing the need to create an effective emergency operation center, it is proposed to provide all essential facilities to promote effective coordination between stakeholders and enhance efficiency of emergency management operations. Transport facilities, communication systems (Fax, Telephone, VHF Radio etc.,) and office requirements (essential appliances, furniture) will be provided for, under this component. It is being proposed to strengthen the emergency management systems at the Sub-divisional and Taluk levels also. Towards this end, it is proposed to provide emergency equipment to the Sub-divisional/ Taluk offices, which will be used during times of emergencies. It is also proposed to form State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) by training a Battalion of Tamil Nadu Special Police. The training will be imparted by National Disaster Response force.
Strengthening of Emergency Response at Hospitals:
Hospitals are one of the crucial players during emergencies and hence it is proposed to strengthen their emergency response capacities. Towards this end, it is proposed to support major Government hospitals in the State to develop a disaster management plan, to handle emergency, situations effectively. The proposal also envisages training of hospital personnel and organizing mock drills in the premises based on the plan.
Development of Training Modules and Curriculum at State owned Training Institutes:
The Government departments in the State have been organizing a series of trainings and workshops for their staff through their training units/institutes. Subjects pertaining to their respective disciplines are dealt with during these programmes. Some of these departments are active stakeholders during disaster/ emergency periods and the services of their personnel are expected to be vital for effective management of disasters/ emergencies. To enhance their understanding on the relevance of disaster/emergency management to their domain of working, the Revenue Administration, Disaster Management and Mitigation department proposes to jointly work with other departments like Agriculture, Rural Development, Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB), Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board (TWAD Board), Water Resource Organization (Irrigation), Health, Electricity and Fire and Rescue Services etc., to develop training modules and curricula on disaster management with specific reference to their respective domains. The State Administrative Training Institute (ATI) will be the focal organization to develop individual training modules jointly with the respective departments/training institutes. NCC cadets will be given one week training in selected locations for preparedness and demand driven services.
Conduct of Trainings and Workshops:
In continuation of the development of training module and curriculum, it is proposed to support the above said training institutes to integrate the said modules in their ongoing trainings/workshops.
Assessment of Hazard, Vulnerability and Risk in vulnerable districts:
Towards developing an effective disaster mitigation plan, it is essential to systematically assess the nature of the hazard, the vulnerabilities that increase the disaster risks and the possible impacts that the disaster could create on lives, livelihoods and assets. Towards this end, it is proposed to undertake this study in multi-hazard prone districts in the State that are prone to wind, cyclone and floods. The said assessment of hazard, vulnerability and risk will be undertaken to develop a disaster risk mitigation plan.
Risk Reduction in the State
• It is proposed to revisit existing “Building By-laws” to make necessary amendments to ensure safe construction especially in disaster prone areas
• Recommendations will be made to undertake disaster resistant constructions under IAY (Indira Awaas Yojana) scheme
• Recommendations will be made to lay underground electric / communication cables in cyclone prone coastal areas
• It is proposed to develop bio-shield along the coastal areas, which will serve as wind brakes/ shelterbelts to mitigate damages due to strong winds. Farmers will be encouraged to take up the said activity.
• Special Insurance for cattle and crops in disaster prone areas will be provided. Establishment of a State Disaster Management Training Center is to be proposed.
The State has been a victim of natural calamities such as cyclones, tsunamis, and floods in some years and severe drought in certain years. According to the National Institute of Disaster Management, 13 districts of Tamil Nadu are vulnerable to high or very high cyclonic impact and flooding. There are at least seven districts in the state that are regularly impacted by drought conditions. A comprehensive plan for reducing the impact of the natural disasters and creating a dynamic response mechanism to natural calamities is part of Vision Tamil Nadu 2023. Environmental measures such as mangrove plantations in coastal areas prone to cyclonic storms will be developed. Mechanism will be developed for relief measures such as disaster management group will be formed at each taluk. As the State of Tamil Nadu often encounters natural calamities, a dedicated State Disaster Rescue Force will be formed to respond expeditiously and effectively. This will be on the pattern of the National Disaster Relief Force, trained in rapid rescue operations.
The Regional Integrated Multi- Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia (RIMES) is an international and intergovernmental institution, owned and managed by its Member States, for the generation and application of early warning information. The Mission of RIMES is building capacity and providing actionable warning information towards forearmed, forewarned and resilient communities. RIMES provide regional early warning services and builds capacity of its Member States in the end to- end early warning of tsunami and hydro meteorological hazards. It is essential to recognize the possible influences of weather and climate at all time scales – from days to decades, and plan for minimizing its impact and maximizing its opportunities to achieve the development trajectories envisioned in the Twelfth Five Year Plan and the Vision Tamil Nadu 2023, through a Climate Risk Management framework.
In Tamil Nadu, weather risks are transmitted directly or indirectly to Primary, Secondary and Tertiary sectors; hence incorporating 5 to 10 days forecast system could be useful to reduce the direct losses and indirect losses through various climate/weather information scales. There is considerable capacity building required to use the robust risk communication ability to accept and adapt the probable forecast information in a risk management framework. Therefore, the services of RIMES in Climate Risk Management shall be utilized in the development planning processes in Tamil Nadu.
Source: Dept. of Revenue Administration, Disaster Management and Mitigation, GoTN