Sensing The Alarm

Do we really have a disaster management in Kashmir?

Disasters and natural calamities are regular features of planet earth and its human life. Calamities like earthquake, floods and epidemics bring misery to mankind and rob mother earth of its riches. Almost every year disasters wipe out thousands; causing enormous damage to property and resources. Recent earthquake and subsequent floods in well developed and fully equipped country like Japan was a devastating blow for the whole world. Even after possessing world’s best disaster management apparatus, Japan had to bow before nature’s wrath, but certainly they succeed in bringing down the level of pain and agony of their people. Kashmir too is located in seismic zone five and has a history of massive earthquakes bringing a large scale death and destruction. Disastrous floods are also very common in Kashmir and are known for their fury. Recent revelation made by a prominent US seismologist Prof Bilham about earthquake of largest ever magnitude hitting Kashmir is alarming; situation seems to be quite disturbing. Prof Bilham suggested that an earthquake of 9 magnitude will likely trigger landslides that would dam the River Jhelum and in a period of few months Kashmir valley will get under water, almost repeating the ‘Sati Sar’ scenario. In the first instance Bilham’s suggestion appears hypothetical, but apparently his startling proposition is based on his vast scientific study about latest seismic activity in Kashmir Himalayas. It is almost a fact that there is no mechanism to predict earthquakes and estimate their magnitude and enormity in advance; however, completely brushing aside estimation based on scientific study, is unfair. Such, likely combination of catastrophic earthquake and subsequent furious floods will be the biggest ever disaster in contemporary history of Kashmir.

Authorities in Kashmir are well aware of looming disasters but everyone plays ostrich when it comes to long term and robust disaster management policy. Nevertheless, they should come out of this sick mindset; have faith in God and firmly consider that honorable survival of mankind is above worldly advantage. Impact of 7.6 magnitude earthquake that hit north Kashmir in 2005 is fresh in our minds; authorities cannot shut their eyes to such cataclysmic disaster and defend their absolute inability in practical and timely response to such devastation. It is a fact, even the most efficient disaster management system cannot stop an impending disaster but casualties and damages can be minimized and survivors saved of frightening miseries. As a nation we lack spirit and fundamentals of efficient and swift disaster management machinery; we are not equipped enough to handle even lesser situation of disaster. We, as civilized people and our conscientious authorities should rise to the occasion and contribute collectively in shaping an effective and forceful disaster management structure. In the best interest of human life and values, the existing one man disaster management shows should be wound up. These mocking ‘disaster cell’ run by chosen few confine to four walls of cozy office chambers, indulging only in photo sessions and press briefings. Such adhocracy require to be reviewed at an earliest.

An efficient and enormous disaster management cannot be created over night, that too in a suffocating atmosphere of budgetary constraints. Inadequate qualified human resource and modern machinery are other limitations in establishing and running a competent disaster management organization. Authorities have to pool and put in all their available resources to frame a ‘Disaster Management Authority’. To start with, we can have a state level command and control system under the leadership of administrator ‘Fire & Emergency Services Department’ with separate disaster management wardens in each district. To strengthen the authority, enlisted and registered cadres and volunteers can be drawn from other government departments and trained to handle situations of disaster. In any eventuality this trained pool of cadres can be called on demand on a short notice, on the pattern of election commission. After establishment of authority, training plan of cadres and volunteers can be made stronger at existing district and provincial headquarters of Fire & Emergency Services Department with active support and patronage of district development authority. Once the projected disaster management authority comes out of its infancy its umbilical cord with Fire & Emergency Department can be severed, and it can sustain of its own and serve the distressed people in times of disaster. But all this require noble efforts and empathy towards mankind rather than complicated and sycophantic planning.

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