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Thursday, April 22, 2021

NDMA member highlights need to rethink Disaster Management Act

“The pandemic has taught us that risk is not confined. Risk ripples across sectors and geographies. We have to address the notion of systemic risk as opposed to silos of different hazards," said National Disaster Management Authority member Kamal Kishore.

Written by Karishma Mehrotra | New Delhi |
Updated: March 23, 2021 10:34:14 am
NDMA member highlights need to rethink Disaster Management ActReflecting on major lessons from the Covid pandemic, NDMA member Kamal Kishore said the National Disaster Management Act had major loopholes that need to be plugged. (Express file photo by Ashish Kale)

Reflecting on major lessons from the Covid pandemic, National Disaster Management Authority member Kamal Kishore said the National Disaster Management Act had major loopholes that need to be plugged and that the “next generation of disaster management effort has to invent an urban model”.

“The pandemic has taught us that risk is not confined. Risk ripples across sectors and geographies. We have to address the notion of systemic risk as opposed to silos of different hazards. From that perspective, I think the Disaster Management Act has to play a role of managing risk as a whole. We may have had a mixed experience of application of the law,” Kishore said at an Center for Public Research webinar looking at “Lessons for Urban Governance Futures from the Pandemic.”

“Whether (the Act) was sufficient, clearly not. Now we know that it was not sufficient because it never visualised the scale of the pandemic that could happen … There is a starting point there … which of course need to be revisited in light of what we’ve learned,” he added.

In one example, Kishore said that there is no city-level disaster management team. Because of this, if a large city has three districts, there are three teams under the supervision of the state.

“It is a huge omission. This doesn’t really work … The act doesn’t talk about how coordination will happen when multiple administrations are affected,” he said, adding the example of coordination between states that are sending displaced persons and states that are receiving them.

“Ninety percent of migrant workers did find a viable way of getting home but did we do that in the most efficient manner? Perhaps there is room for improvement there,” he said.

He complimented the disaster management structures of Odisha, especially in regards to cyclones. “A large part of that success is community-based mechanisms. The cyclone structures on the cost of Odisha are not managed by the government, but by communities.”

The law also speaks of minimum standards of relief for people affected by disasters living in relief camps. “Perhaps it is time to think beyond relief camps. The experience of the pandemic has taught us that people may be in relief camps but they may be affected and what are the standards we should apply when displacement happens.”

Finally, Kishore highlighted the impact of “an event like this on municipal finance”, especially in India’s smaller cities heavily dependent on parking fees, hotel taxes, and more.

Before NDMA, Kishore led disaster risk reduction efforts at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Also speaking at the event, Daksha Shah, Deputy Executive Health Officer, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) said that there was vaccine hesitancy initially, but now most of the concerns have been allayed. Only the government has had to convince people that both vaccines are equally effective, she said.

“We have still not tapped the extent of the private sector. We already have models in TV … in the routine health services and access, can we use the private sector in a big way?” Shah said.

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