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Mountain states find common ground on disaster management, climate change

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Itanagar: A unique three-day summit on sustainable development of mountain states in India, held in this Arunachal Pradesh capital, called for special steps for disaster risk reduction and optimal utilisation of mountain agricultural resources.

Given the disastrous earthquake in Nepal in April this year and the 2013 cloudburst in Uttarakhand, disaster risk reduction was the central theme of the 2015 edition of the Sustainable Mountain Development Summit (SMDS) that was attended by stakeholders across multiple sectors from 11 mountain states of the country.

A key issue that was raised in terms of disaster risk reduction was the adoption of a building code separate from the rest of India for the 11 mountain states – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand.

“It is the opinion of the legislators present in this meet that the building code applicable to the whole of the nation is not ideal for buildings in the mountain states,” stated a resolution adopted at the end of the summit held from October 7 to 9.

“It is resolved that legislators from mountain states will raise the issue of forming a separate building code for mountains at different forums including the state legislative assemblies and the parliament.”

In the inaugural session of the summit, Kamal Kishore, member of the National Disaster Authority, highlighted the fact that as many as 41 districts of the 11 mountain states did not have a disaster management plan in place.

“Can we earnestly do something for the hill states in terms of earthquakes and landslides?,” he appealed.

This found reflection in the final resolution that stated that “41 districts across 11 mountain states are yet to formulate district disaster management plans”.

“It is resolved that the districts will be identified in a fast-tracked manner and a disaster management will be formulated in each of the districts within the next one year,” it stated.

Mountain agriculture was another key issue that came up for wide discussion between the participants of the summit.

An output report released after several brain-storming sessions on the issue called for “an ecologically sustainable, socially inclusive, resilient, diverse, flourishing and market-linked mountain agriculture economy driven by youth and women by 2030”.

It also called for the formulation of a clear mountain-specific policy approach for Himalayan agriculture.

Given that the summit was held ahead of the Conference of Parties (CoP) 21 climate summit to be held in Paris later this year, climate change was another issue that came up for much discussion.

Addressing a meeting of legislators of the 11 mountain states, Speaker of the Arunachal Pradesh assembly, Nabam Rebia, highlighted the fact that the country and the world as a whole was facing disasters at an increasing pace in all parts.

“We faced destructive floods in Uttarakhand in 2013, annual floods in Assam, floods in Jammu and Kashmir in September 2014 and the recent earthquake in Nepal,” he said.

According to Rebia, the mountain states and their sensitive ecosystems are extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts.

Lok Sabha member from Sikkim PD Rai stressed the importance of advocacy within the northeastern states so that effective policies and frameworks could be worked out for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The Itanagar summit also saw Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki calling for the creation of a separate ministry at the Centre for the country’s mountain states.

“Due to geographical and historical reasons, the resources of the mountains, both natural and human, are either under-utilised or ill-utilised,” Tuki said while inaugurating the event.

“Therefore, policy decisions to protect and sustainably harness these resources must be put in place. The role of the union government is paramount in providing an umbrella for all the mountain states, preferably in the form of a separate ministry,” he said.

Sponsored by the GLOBE (Global Learning and and Observations to Benefit the Environment) India and the Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI), this year’s SMDS was hosted by Sustainable Development Forum Arunachal Pradesh.

The event also saw the legislators of all 11 mountain states coming under the common banner of GLOBE-IMI Pan Himalayan Legislators Forum.

(By Aroonim Bhuyan, IANS)

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Stress may trigger a form of Reflex Epilepsy and increase the risk of its Development

Epilepsy is a disorder in which nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, causing seizures

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A person suffering from Headache

New York, April 4, 2017: For people suffering with epilepsy, facing stressful events such as the war, trauma or natural disaster, or the death of a loved one, may act as a common trigger for seizures, a study has found.

Epilepsy is a disorder in which nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, causing seizures.

The findings showed that higher anxiety levels in patients with epilepsy reported stress as a seizure trigger.

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Stress can not only increase seizure susceptibility and in rare cases a form of reflex epilepsy, but also increase the risk of the development of epilepsy, especially when stressors are severe, prolonged, or experienced early in life, the researchers said.

“Stress is a subjective and highly individualised state of mental or emotional strain. Although it’s quite clear that stress is an important and common seizure precipitant, it remains difficult to obtain objective conclusions about a direct causal factor for individual epilepsy patients,” said Heather McKee, Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati.

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For the study, appearing in the journal Seizure, the team looked at 21 studies from the 1980s to present — from patients who kept diaries of stress levels and correlation of seizure frequency, to tracking seizures after major life events, to fMRI studies that looked at responses to stressful verbal/auditory stimuli.

Most of the studies showed increases in seizure frequency after high-stress events such as the war, trauma or natural disaster, or the death of a loved one.

Adopting stress reduction techniques “could improve overall quality of life and reduce seizure frequency at little to no risk,” the researchers noted.

Some low risk stress reduction techniques may include controlled deep breathing, relaxation or mindfulness therapy, as well as exercise, or establishing routines. (IANS)

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Typhoon Haima affected 1.69 Million people in south China’s Guangdong province

There have been no reports of casualties following the timely evacuation of 668,000 people to safer areas

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Representational Image.. Flickr

Beijing, October 23, 2016: Disasters brought by Typhoon Haima have affected 1.69 million people in south China’s Guangdong province, said the civil affairs department on Sunday.

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Typhoon Haima barrelled into Guangdong on Friday, triggering sudden downpour in several cities, Xinhau news agency reported.

There have been no reports of casualties following the timely evacuation of 668,000 people to safer areas.

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The department has received reports of damage to 2,749 houses and some 178,000 hectares of crops. The department estimated that the economic losses total 3.5 billion yuan ($517 million).

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The typhoon caused power outages to 2.12 million households. By Saturday, 95.5 per cent of them had regained power supply, thanks to emergency repairs by the provincial power grid company. (IANS)

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Most Flood-prone State in India likely to be Aided by New Satellite Mapping

Since floods started in the state last month, more than 200 people have died and more than 300,000 have been forced from their homes

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FILE - Indians watch from the upper floor of their house flooding in the river Ganges in Allahabad, India, Aug. 23, 2016. VOA

Every year India’s northeastern state of Bihar is deluged by floods that submerge roads, destroy homes and wash away crops, leaving the disaster management authority struggling to monitor and assess the damage, and to distribute aid effectively.

But new satellite mapping of flood-prone areas should transform disaster response by equipping authorities with near real-time information about inundated villages, officials said.

Bihar, which borders the Himalayan nation of Nepal, is India’s most flood-prone state. More than 70 percent of its total geographical area is at risk of annual floods, which put lives at risk and lead to heavy financial losses.

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A major challenge for the Bihar state disaster management authority (BSDMA) has been mapping and monitoring flood-hit areas, according to the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), which works to promote development across the Hindu Kush Himalayas.

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Since floods started in the state last month, more than 200 people have died and more than 300,000 have been forced from their homes, disaster officials said.

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ICOMOD has helped generate innovative flood mapping for 33 districts in Bihar and an online flood information system that is allowing faster response to a crisis, quicker damage assessment, and better risk management than with conventional methods, said officials from ICIMOD, based in Kathmandu.

“Traditionally, field teams are organized and dispatched to flooded areas to map floods. This can be time-consuming and operationally difficult during a flooding event,” Shahriar M. Wahid, a senior ICIMOD hydrologist, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation via email.

While “satellite-sourced flood maps alone cannot provide early warning to [the] at-risk population”, he said, satellite data, in combination with flood simulations, can do this.

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If flash floods triggered by torrential rain occur in Nepal, Bihar’s residents can expect to see inundations about eight hours later, according to data from the BSDMA. Wahid said the new flood maps will be most useful for the distribution of relief, assessment of damages and to determine crop insurance payouts, among other benefits.

The project uses satellite technology that penetrates cloud cover, unlike optics-based satellite imagery. This is useful in the Himalayan region where monsoons bring thick clouds.

Flood maps can be generated within five to six hours after raw satellite data is received. The floods are circulated to government officials and relief agencies through a satellite communication network.

Space satellite technology is often touted by disaster relief experts as an important tool in managing the growing number of climate-linked disasters around the world.

But the cost of such technology for developing countries, even fast-growing ones like India, can be a challenge. ICIMOD is able to obtain some satellite data and images at no cost, which it then passes to the government for free, it said.

For many residents of Bihar’s capital, Patna, prevention is the first step towards building resilience against floods that are increasing in intensity and frequency due to climate change.

Satellite maps can also aid prevention because they act as a template for years to come, recording rainfall patterns and data from the water department, among other factors, ICIMOD said.

“The very principles of urban planning in Bihar need a drastic review,” said social worker Kumar Gaurav.

Planning “must now take into account global warming, intense and concentrated rainfall along with the construction boom that is responsible for high-rises on the Ganga’s riverbed and floodplains,” he said. (VOA)