September 29, 2021 3:28:26 am
The government is working on a programme to set up disaster management volunteers in 350 districts of the country as first responders and mapping the Brahmaputra flood plains to create artificial lakes to mitigate the annual floods in Assam, Home Minister Amit Shah said Tuesday.
Speaking at an event to commemorate the 17th Formation Day of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Shah said: “No matter how much hard work we put into formulating responses and preparing plans, there will never be a time that NDRF and SDRF respond immediately to a disaster. If we need a response within seconds, it can only be done by the people of the country. Only trained Aapada Mitr (volunteers) in every village can achieve this.”
Aapada Mitr is a programme to identify suitable individuals in disaster-prone regions who can be trained to be first responders in times of natural disasters. It is being implemented in 30-flood prone districts across 25 states. As many as 5,500 individuals in these areas have been appointed as Aapada Mitr. “However, this experiment is on a very small scale at the moment. So we are going to implement this programme in 350 disaster-prone districts in the country. This is a very important beginning. In the past 17 years, several protocols and SOPs have been made. But to implement them on the ground, we will need this programme. The Centre will also fund insurance of all these volunteers. I want Aapada Mitr for heat wave also,” Shah said.
The event was organised on the theme of cascading effects of disaster events in the Himalayan region. Scheme documents for programmes such as Aapada Mitr and Common Alert Protocol were released at the function.
The home minister said the country had made significant progress in disaster risk reduction in the past 17 years and was now working on mitigating annual Assam floods.
“In the Northeast we have embarked upon a new experiment. With the help of NASEC (North Eastern Space Application Centre), we are mapping Brahmaputra floods using satellite imagery. We have found that the topography is such that when the floods come, we can store excess water in 1,000 hectare artificial lakes at different places. This reduces floods by 40%. NASEC is working in finding such locations and 19 locations have already been identified. No energy will be required to divert water as topography will help the water flow there,” Shah said.
The home minister said the Common Alert Protocol needed to be popularised. “NDMA has found that we can alert people six minutes in advance about a lightning strike. For a large area, it can be even be a few hours in advance. But still we lose lives due lightning strikes. We have a plan in place for cold and heat waves, but their implementation is not happening. Timely alert can save lives,” Shah said.
The home minister said the government was also using satellite imagery and data to build roads and rail networks in a way that natural waterways are not obstructed. He added that the government had started disaster management education in middle and high schools. “If we can create a culture and value system in our society that responds to disasters, we will probably not even need such comprehensive training,” Shah said.
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