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UN honors Rijiju for his efforts in Disaster Management

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New Delhi: The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) on Tuesday designated union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju as Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Champion for the Asia Region.

The honor was conferred by Margarete Wahlstrom, special representative of the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction, during the inaugural session of the Asia Leaders’ Meeting towards Implementation of the Sendai Framework for DRR in Asia.

Lauding Rijiju’s performance, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said: “The constant efforts of Kiren Rijiju in the field of Disaster Management have resulted in recognition of India as DRR regional champion by the United Nations.”

Accepting the honor, Rijiju said: “This recognition is an onerous responsibility on India and in my personal capacity to make India, Asia-Pacific and the world a whole safer and better prepared to deal with any disaster.”

Emphasizing the role of DRR in development and poverty eradication, he said: “We recognize the importance of including disaster and climate risk management as an integral part of development planning and programs to realize the global goals of sustainable development and poverty eradication.”

The function was attended by Afghanistan, China, Indonesia, Japan, Mongolia, South Korea and Thailand ministers and delegates from various countries and international organizations.

(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)

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Lightning is a Bigger Killer than Earthquakes and Floods in India

Over 100 deaths were reported due to lightning on Tuesday in Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh with 57 from Bihar alone.

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Lightning. Image source: www.noaanews.noaa.gov
  • In 2014, at least 2,582 people died in lightning strikes
  • Victims of lightning isn’t recognized by the national-level official disaster relief policy for providing proper compensation from the national calamity relief funds
  • Lightning strikes are going to get worse in the coming years due to global warming

Are you aware of the natural disaster that kills thousands every year? Well, if you are guessing it as earthquake or flood, then you are wrong for sure. Every year, over 2500 deaths per year, most of the villages are still unequipped to handle lightning. What’s worse?Lightning is not recognized as a natural disaster under the national-level official disaster relief policy for providing proper compensation to the families of victims from the national calamity relief funds.

Over 100 deaths were reported due to lightning on Tuesday, June 21, in Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh with 57 from Bihar alone and an emergency meeting of the cabinet was quickly called in Bihar and compensation for victims was also announced. Rather than providing such compensations, a more regular provision at the national level in the calamity relief funds should be made available.

Lightning isn’t always fatal but the injuries from it can be very painful and specialized treatment must be provided immediately. So the policy-makers should not only keep the matter of compensation in mind but the facilities for proper medical care must also be provided so that some lives can be saved.

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The Institute of Land and Disaster Management and the Government of Kerala, had examined the data on the leading natural disasters for 45 years (1967-2012) and concluded that 39% of all deaths had been caused by lightning – compared to 18% by floods, says the Wire report.  In 2014, at least 2,582 people died in lightning strikes, according to the government.

According to thewire.in report, Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam, Orissa, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and the Himalayan region are most affected by lightning and produce the highest number of deaths. Most of the victims are women and children.

With little or no protective steps taken against lightning in villages, it is the people living in the rural that is affected the most. Farmers, field workers, nomads and forest workers have been particularly vulnerable to death by lightning.

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“It is mentioned under ‘death due to natural causes’, implying that it affects everyone equally. Yet it affects the villagers most, and since most poor people still stay in villages, it affects the poor disproportionately. Those who work in the fields or have to go around with herds of cows and goats or have to go out into the forests are more likely to suffer. Easily several scores of people die due to this every year in rural districts.” said Dr. Yogesh Jain, who treats lightning victims at a rural hospital in Bilaspur district, Chhattisgarh.

A lightning conductor. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Though natural disasters are predictable, it is hard to pinpoint where and when it will take place. Lightning can strike anywhere and anytime in the zone. Hence protective measures must be deployed wherever necessary. Lightning conductors should be readily available close to the areas more affected by lightning. The hospitals should be well-equipped to handle a significant number of patients. These precautions are necessary to save the lives of all those injured by lightning.

The lightning strikes are going to get worse in the coming years, say scientists. A team of scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, found that lightning would be expected to increase by about 12 percent per degree Celsius of warming which means about a 50 percent rise over the 21st century due to global warming.

-The report is compiled by a staff-writer at NewsGram.

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Lightning Kills More People in India Than Floods, Quakes

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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)