Science for disaster management Editorial 31st Aug’19 TimesOfIndia

Headline : Science for disaster management Editorial 31st Aug’19 TimesOfIndia

Details :

Managing disaster and emergency risks:

  • In an increasingly interconnected world, disaster and emergency risks are becoming more complex and difficult to manage.
  • Therefore, it is critically important to optimise the application of scientific and technological capabilities to understand, reduce and manage disaster and emergency risks.

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Use of science and technology:

  • Over the last 20 years, science and technology have brought a deeper understanding of how disaster risks are created and how they can be managed.
  • We now have reliable information on hazard patterns, data on people (their exposure to hazards), capital assets and economic activity.
  • We also have a much greater understanding of fragility or vulnerability of people, assets and systems.
  • This can be seen from the huge improvements in various things like
    • Forecasting extreme climate and weather events
    • Our improved understanding of disasters (like earthquakes and landslides)
    • Our ability to model risks and anticipate the impact of disasters even before reaching the disaster site

Increased outreach to scientific community:

  • The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is reaching out to the scientific community and working towards a futuristic agenda for disaster risk management in the country.

However, challenges remain in application of Science & Technology:

  • At the systemic level, there are two principal challenges worth highlighting.
  1. On-the-ground application of technology:
  • There is still a time lag between the availability of scientific and technological capability and its on-the-ground application.
  • For example, mobile computing has been around for more than a decade, yet few post-disaster damage assessments make full use of the technology to come up with quick, rigorous and geo-referenced assessments.
  • Similarly, new products and technologies are emanating from the defence establishment that may be useful in disaster response, but their usage is minimal.
  1. Giving right direction to scientific development:
  • The second challenge is on the scientific development side.
  • We need to ensure that research is focussed on developing methodologies and tools that respond to real-world challenges and facilitate the shift from disaster management to disaster risk management.
  • In this context, there have been some positives in India as it has pursued the application of science and technology for disaster risk management.
  • For example, India has systematically pursued the application of space-based technologies for disaster risk management.
  • Our national system of science has also continually evolved over the years to meet the needs of disaster risk management professionals.
    • For example, some years ago, a number of scientific disciplines were brought together under the umbrella of ministry of earth sciences.

Principles for the next generation of our scientific efforts for disaster risk management:

  • We now have to look at the next generation of our scientific efforts to address disaster risk management challenges.
  • The next generation of scientific efforts need to be guided by the following three principles:
  • Sharper definition of disaster risk management problems:
    • We need a sharper definition of disaster risk management problems to galvanise scientific efforts that lead to progress.
    • With disaster risk management maturing in India, should be possible to articulate specific requirements from the scientific community.
  • Search for scalable, affordable and sustainable solutions:
    • While promoting the application of science for disaster risk management at the local level, we should search for scalable, affordable and sustainable solutions.
    • In most parts of the country and indeed the world, disaster risks are building up at an alarming rate.
    • Our ambition must match the scale of the problem.
  • Multi-disciplinary approach:
    • We need to enlarge the scope of multi-disciplinary work.
      • For example, this may include seismologists interacting with landslide experts, flash flood experts and meteorologists.
    • We need to study the interaction between hazards, current and future exposure (population, property and economic activity), and vulnerability.
    • This will require multi-disciplinary effort that will push us beyond our comfort zones.

Technology should be complemented by deeper understanding of social and economic processes:

  • Over the last few years, there is a lot of enthusiasm for application of big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence for disaster risk management.
  • However, we must recognise that these technologies are not a substitute for a deeper understanding of social and economic processes that make our society vulnerable.

Good risk governance practices should not be overlooked:

  • Technology can be complementary, but is not a substitute for the fundamental principles of good risk governance characterised by a responsive government and a risk-aware community.
  • The new methods and tools should supplement and not supplant the time tested practices of good disaster risk management.

Way ahead – Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure:

  • In this context, India, with UK and other partners, will be launching a global Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.
  • The Coalition would prove to be a key milestone towards further strengthening our collaboration.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Disaster Management

Section : Editorial Analysis

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