Disaster Management: Does it work ??

Reading this account on a blog, really got me thinking.

Can we ever plan for disasters? And would our approach be different for natural and man made ones ??

Consider two events in ths month. The London bomb blasts were man made. The Bombay rains and floods were natural.

The mechanism’s that are taken for granted in one cannot be taken for granted in another.

In man made disasters, relief and supply chains are open, however extended they might be. If the city is brought to its knees, the surrounding cities can send in their firemen, policemen and other aid workers. NYC witnessed that during and after 9/11 when government agencies from as far away as texas and ohio were there within 24 hours.

In natural disasters like the rains, or the tsunami from a few months ago, getting in is the biggest problem. Supply lines are severed, and communications are sporadic. Even if they are on, there is not much that can be done. The people who were stranded in the floods and spent the night in buses could do nothing about it. No amount of human manpower and supply and rescue mechanism would have helped. Yes, hypothetically you could argue that everyone can be air-evacuated. But is that practical ??

This i feel is the biggest difference in the way disaster management plans succeed or fail. Planners need to keep this in mind while chalking out modus operandi.

At the same time, people need to be realistic, as to what can be done and what cannot.

Yes, the sewers of Bombay could be completely unclogged. But how does one pump out 38 odd inches of water in a 21 hour period from an island surrounded by the sea. Sluice and sewer gates cannot be just thrown open. The sea water will back track into the sewer system and then we have a bigger problem on hand.

Yes, cleaner sewers, more efficient drainage management systems and other systems in place would have resulted in the city being waterlogged for a lesser period of time. That is the lessson to take away from all this.

And of course the fact that it is situations like this that bring out the heroism in the city we all call home.


  1. Sakshi July 30, 2005

    I agree, most disaster management plans fail in natural disasters especially in our country. I agree with the government that no one could have expected such heavy rainfalls.

    BUT if simple measures were taken at the right, then surely things would not have turned out so severe.

    Today is the 4th day and still there is a huge wall of the Army center in Juhu broken and the big blocks of stones are blocking more then 70% of the road. In JVPD Scheme, the BMC has yet not cleared the garbage/dirt that has pilled up practically on every street. Even in MIDC, its the same story.

    In Sydney, there is always a threat of Bushfires during the summers. And i have seen with my own eyes the rescue missions that have been carried out the NSW government. Even Bushfires are natural disasters..and no one can predict their intensity.

    This is a good article that i read in MID-DAY.

    “Pull him up today”


  2. Amit Yadav August 1, 2005

    Nice Post- I agree that the Govt cannot be omnipresent and do everything. However if they get the basics right at least, we can do better.

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