Natural disasters come and go but the scars remain for the entire human memory. The Tsunami of December 2004 which killed over thirty thousand people was probably the worst such calamity in our country. Now we have just experienced one of the worst downfalls of rain resulting in floods and earth slips drowning and burying hundreds. Each of these has brought home to us the need for being more vigilant and prepared for future disasters. But the question is whether we are getting prepared enough.
The high frequency of these disasters and their increasing severity have now made us all aware of the necessity for having a new and well-structured disaster mitigation and management plan. While the occurrence of these disasters is beyond human control there is much that can be done to mitigate the damage and loss of life.
Need for some strict procedure for regulating construction of buildings and houses particularly in disaster prone areas has now become more evident. Relevancy of building research, identifying disaster prone areas and having a system of mandatory clearance from a special regulatory body before constructing in such areas are some of the factors that should receive high priority in this exercise.
Dealing with unauthorized constructions which are already there, especially on river banks and low lying areas is another serious issue that has to be tackled. The whole issue has got politicized over the years as most such areas are vote banks for the local politicians and unauthorized constructions often happen with the backing of the politicians.
As seen in the reactions and comments made by some of the affected people they seem to expect the local politicians to get involved in relief operations. However what is necessary is not for them to get personally involved and politicize the relief operation, but to give leadership to a well-designed and effective disaster management system.
The three security forces and the Special Task Force are playing an exemplary role in the ongoing relief programme. It is obvious that they have to play the lead role in any future disaster management scheme as well because it is they who have the man power, experience, the logistical capability and the discipline to handle the difficult tasks of that nature.
Another important factor is the disaster warning system and in that respect upgrading the institutions responsible for meteorology, geological and building research etc. should be given high priority. As a country relatively less affected by natural calamities in the past we had the luxury of being complacent, but the situation has rapidly changed over the last few decades and disaster readiness has become much more relevant than ever before.
Once the current emergency is over reorganizing and upgrading the disaster management system should begin without delay and well before the next natural disaster. In the absence of war, security forces can be given a greater part of the responsibility in such a disaster management plan.