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-by Team RPM-MF Nov 28, 2022-

Despite disaster management being the primary responsibility of civil administration, it is often overwhelmed by disaster incidences by virtue of their magnitude, impact and geographical coverage. Long drawn rescue and relief operations together with inclement weather conditions and disrupted transport network force the civil administration to resort to the support of various specialised agencies. Having been trained to respond at short notice and undertake sustained operations under adverse conditions, together with nationwide presence makes the armed forces a natural choice for support of various kind during disaster situations.

Apart from armed forces assistance of a number of other agencies is often sought by the civil administration for managing the disaster situation and coordination amongst these is a must for smooth delivery of various services and accomplishment of the earmarked tasks. Joint exercises play a crucial role in this regard as these help the agencies familiarise themselves with each others capabilities, as also protocols.

Amongst the armed forcesAir Force is often requisitioned by the civil administration for reconnaissance, search, rescue and evacuation and in the previous disaster incidences it has helped the civil administration in quickly providing various required services to the disaster affected population and alleviating their sufferings.

SAMANVAY 2022 – joint humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) exercise  being organised at Air Force Station, Agra between 28 and 30 November, 2022 is an effort of the Indian Air Force to further reinstate the need of interagency coordination and cooperation.

28 November 2022

In the beginning a short film highlighting the role of the armed forces during previous disaster incidences was screened to set the tone of the exercise.

Inaugural address was then given by Air Commodore Surendra Kimar Sharma, Air Officer Commanding (AOC), 4 Wg. This was followed by the keynote address by Air Marshal Nagesh Kapoor, Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO), HQ Central Air Command (CAC), who further highlighted the role of IAF in various disaster incidences across the nation as also abroad.

The first plenary session

It focused on the existing SOPs for disaster relief and was chaired by Dr. Pavan K. Singh of National Disaster Management Authority who highlighted the disaster vulnerability of the southeast Asian countries. He particularly emphasised the need of preparedness for dealing with hydro-meteorological disasters that account for 82% of the economic losses and 80% of the disaster induced casualties in the country.

First to present in this session was Col. Nadeem Ashrad, Senior Consultant, NDMA who started with paradigm shift from response and relief to pre-disaster preparedness and risk reduction and explained the importance of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and various institutions created in accordance with various provisions therein.

He put forth details of the guidelines, plans and SOPs prepared by various agencies. He particularly highlighted the disaster vulnerability of the ASEAN countries together with achievements in the field of DRR. He stressed upon the need of having (i) a single window clearance system, (ii) regular civil-military liaison, (iii) standard SOPs, (iv) joint training and (v) mock exercises for effective post-disaster cooperation amongst ASEAN countries.

This was followed by a presentation by Dr. Amir Ali Khan of National Institute of Disasters Management who deliberated on earthquake and landslide risk management related issues. Besides dwelling at length on various training programs organised by NIDM, he briefed the participants on various other activities of NIDM. He stressed upon the importance of promoting earthquake safe construction in view of long drawn seismic quiescence and 59% of the Indian landmass being prone to earthquakes.

At the end of the plenary session it was the turn of Brig. PK Singh, Senior Consultant at Uttar Pradesh SDMA who showcased the capabilities and organisational structure of the disaster management authority in the state of Uttar Pradesh. He highlighted changing frequency and timing of meteorological disasters and attributed these to climate change. He put forth that with unit rise in temperature instances of lightening are increasing by 11%.

In the question answer session the need for having an independent ministry for disaster management related affairs at the central government level was discussed at length.

Towards the closing Dr. Pavan K. Singh briefed the participants on minimum standards of relief and international assistance, wherein the acceptance of the offered external assistance has to be decided by the Ministry of External Affairs in accordance with the laid down SOP for the same.

The second plenary session

The session focused on the role of NDRF and armed forces in disaster relief and was chaired by Col. Nadeem Arshad of NDMA.

The first presentation of the session was made by Mohsin Sahedi, DIG, National Disaster Response Force who gave an account of the role, responsibilities and capabilities of the force after describing the vulnerability profile of the nation. He told the audience that NDRF has 16 batallions, each having 18 teams.

The next talk was delivered by Col. Sandeep Singh who deliberated on various humanitarian relief operations undertaken by the Indian Army. After this Cdr. Deepak Dhankhrer shared the capabilities of the Indian Navy in responding to disaster situations, particularly flood and cyclone situations. This was followed by Sq. Let. Aby Joseph who appraised the audience of the capabilities and experiences of Indian Air Force. He stressed upon the importance of (i) integration with civil administration, (ii) inflight assistance, (iii) efficient management of air crew, (iv) effective communication, and (v) efficient material handling for improving service delivery by The Air Force.

At the end Col. Nadeem Arshad discussed the proposal for dedicated aircraft and other related technical capabilities for forest fire management.

The third plenary session

The last session of the day focused on the use of advanced / futuristic technology for efficient and effective HADR operations and was chaired by AVM Rajesh Issar. In the opening remarks quoting from PM’s 10 Point Agenda AVM Rajesh Issar stressed upon the need of using technology and social media for making disaster management efficient apart from bringing forth voluntary compliance of disaster safe technologies. In case of multiagency coordination he highlighted the need of trust and advised reinforcing the same through the use of technology. Stressing  the  importance of flexible plans he ended with the quote that no plan is going to survive the first bullet.

The first presentation of the session was made by Dr. KV Durga Rao of National Remote Sensing Agency who deliberated on the various satellite based services provided by NRSA not only on the aftermath of the disaster incidences but also for monitoring of various hazards and mapping these for different usage. He appraised the audience about various products, including forecasts and warnings provided by NRSA. He also described various value added products put on public domain through National Database for Emergency Management (NDEM) geoportal.

This was followed by Charan Singh of India Meteorological Department who started his talk with the basic fact that most disasters in India are fuelled by weather conditions. Apart from other services he described details of impact based forecast service as also forecasts provided by IMD for specific users; farmers, fishermen, aviation sector and others.

This was followed by Dr. Amreek Singh of Defence Geo-informatics Research Establishment. He described details of avalanche threat in the nation together with mitigation measures, with special emphasis on the use of emerging technologies together with various services provided by DGRE. Amongst active mitigation measures he cited (i) creating structural measures, (ii) artificial triggering and (iii) afforestation while amongst passive measures he cited (i) vulnerability and risk mapping, (ii) forecasting and (iii) capacity building.

In the end AVM Issar cited Kedarnath disaster of 2013 where mobiles kept working and were put to great use in managing the show, while these didn’t work during Jhelum flood of 2014. He thus stressed upon making critical facilities disaster resilient. Citing from his memory of 2013 disaster he said that the chopper operations could be smoothly undertaken with the use of WhatsApp that was then in its nascent stage and its use was suggested by a youngster. He therefore concluded with the remark that effective use of technology requires an open mind.

Both Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand SDMAs were represented in SAMANVAY 2022 by Brig. PK Singh, and Dr. Piyoosh Rautela respectively. Ajay Bhatt of Uttarakhand SDRF was also present. Representatives of various ASEAN countries including ThailandLaosMyanmarMalaysiaPhilippinesVietnamSingapore and Cambodia participated in the exercise as observers.

(This write-up is borrowed from Risk Prevention Mitigation and Management Forum.)

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