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Mohammad Abdul Qayyum

Thursday, March 28, 2013





BANGLADESH is a disaster prone country. Except volcanic eruption all other common hazards are found here with variation in magnitude. Many of them are repetitive and are concentrated in particulars areas. Flood, cyclone, salinity, drought, arsenic contamination, earthquake, tornado are common occurrences. The frequency of these events can be categorised as potentially high (flood, cyclone etc.), potentially medium (erosion, salinity, urban fire, drought, tornado etc.), potentially low (earthquake) and moderate or variable (flu, diseases, cold waves, heat waves, insect infestation etc.).


Intelligence gathering, strategic studies and policy analysis, and previous experience help us to understand the trend, pattern and complexities or emergencies resulting from any of the events mentioned above. Therefore, there is little or no excuse for being unprepared in the face of disaster.


Disaster preparedness can be divided into phases like prevention or mitigation, and response and recovery including reconstruction. The planning procedure for taking actions — structural or nonstructural — depends on the need of each phase, as the prerequisites and dimensions of each phase are different. Mitigation means taking actions directed towards reducing the impact of future disasters. Such actions include engineering solutions — considered as structural measures — and building community awareness, legislation and evacuation plans — called non-structural measures.


Preparedness refers to those actions taken to reduce the impact of any disaster before it happens. During this phase, vulnerable people are evacuated from the area that is likely to be hit. Response refers to emergency actions taken during and immediately after the event. The main activities of this phase are saving and protecting lives, including fulfillment of urgent needs of the survivors. Lastly, recovery is the process of repairing damage, restoring service networks and rebuilding destroyed facilities.


Before planning for each of the said phases, we must take into account the society’s composition, nature, administrative structure, scope and nature of participation and methods of decision making, skills and capabilities, and the level of economic development (the available resources). For effective preparedness planning the developed world is focusing on an all-hazards approach, while developing countries are adopting response and dominant hazard approach.


In short-term planning the key resource or input is information. This type of planning must ensure rapid deployment of available resources in the most effective and efficient manner. The rising cost of consequences (specially, economic loss) provides a rationale for short term planning. The focus of short term planning is to address seasonal and recurring occurrences like flood, cyclone etc.


Long term planning has three phases — reconstruction, mitigation and general preparedness. Preparedness planning ensures the best possible use of resources, and develops the prediction, forecasting and warning systems (especially for rapid onset disaster). The aim of preparedness plan is two-fold — firstly to reduce the risk and secondly to reduce loss and damage, save lives and attend to the emergency needs of the survivors. Any inefficiency in preparedness planning causes unacceptable loss and damages. If the risks are known or exist, failure to prepare for them is “culpable negligence.”


Over the years, the country has developed key principles for disaster management, which form the basis of an integrated and comprehensive approach with a mandate of covering all hazards, all settings, all sectors and all phases of disaster management.


The Disaster Management Act 2012 was enacted in September 2012. The government, through the issuance of revised Standing Orders on Disaster (SOD) 2010, created a well-defined framework for disaster management business processes. The National Plan for Disaster Management (NPDM) 2010-2015 was adopted to provide the overall guideline for the relevant sectors and disaster management committees at all levels and agencies to prepare and implement specific plans.


Disaster management and climate change have been integrated in the 6th Five Year Plan. Concurrently with the government effort the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP II) of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief has become instrumental in consolidating the shift from response and recovery to prevention, mitigation and better preparedness.


As disaster and extreme climatic events continue to affect people in rural and urban areas, citizen activism and voluntarism have been identified as complementary capacities. During the past major disasters, Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) and urban volunteers played a vital role in community alerting and search and rescue operations.


Mobile technology involving Short Message Service (SMS) and the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to transmit weather advisory and disaster early warning is now accessible through all mobile operators. Because of persuasion through CDMP II, the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Primary and Mass Education issued government order to organise school safety drills regularly (at least twice a year). On the basis of this order, 30,000 primary schools and 12,000 secondary schools across the country conducted earthquake drills.


The disaster-related activities of prevention, preparedness, emergency relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction each occupy a distinct time period in relation to a disaster. The time period can vary greatly, depending on the type of disaster and other factors. Nevertheless, it is important that people involved in disaster planning and response recognise the different phases and the appropriate activities that occur in each phase.


Experience shows that ability to face recurrent disasters and the capacities of the people as well as local community are by far the biggest strength of disaster management in Bangladesh. Due to the efforts of the national level disaster management planning and government initiative, the people have gained ample experience in dealing with natural catastrophes and are optimistic enough to find opportunity in every difficult situation they encounter.


On National Disaster Preparedness Day we can look forward to all-embracing participation and partnership of all stakeholders that will ensure effective preparedness against all disasters and contribute towards building resilient communities. This year’s theme is “Preparedness for all disasters can reduce sufferings.”


The writer is National Project Director, Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP II).26.




Source: thedailystar






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