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-by Piyoosh Rautela

In case we wish us to excel, be it in any field; first and foremost we have to critically review what our counterparts are doing and shed our inhibitions, and most importantly not hesitate in accepting where the counterpart has fared well and accordingly reprogramming our strategies to optimize productivity.

Even though not many in India were aware of the tsunami and its devastating potential, it became a household affair after the havoc it caused on 26 December 2004.

On its part, the government also sprang into action after recovering from the burnt of the Indian Ocean Tsunami and as a knee-jerk reaction, it quickly enacted the long-awaited legislation for managing disasters – Disaster Management Act, 2005 – almost a year after the tsunami.


Needless to say that the Act provided an institutional framework for disaster management, even though much still remains to be done in terms of empowering and strengthening various institutions created in accordance with the same – particularly in terms of human resource that has unfortunately been considered dispensable by our system.

Apart from the Act, the government at the same time empowered the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) which had been set up in February 1999 as an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Earth Sciences. INCOIS presently functions as a dedicated world-class tsunami early warning facility, and in case of any submarine earthquake having the potential of generating a tsunami and affecting the Indian land mass, it has warning generation and dissemination infrastructure to ensure timely evacuation of vulnerable communities and take appropriate measures to reduce the impact and minimize loss of human lives, livestock, and property.

On the second day, the first talk was on an early warning system for ocean and coastal disasters by Dr. Balakrishnan Nair Of INCOIS who aptly classified ocean-related hazards into (i) Meteorological, (ii) Tectonic, (iii) Biochemical / Ecological, and (iv) Marine pollution. Highlighting the vulnerability of Southeast Asia he told that 30% of all cyclones originate in the Indian Ocean.

Dr. Balakrishnan told the audience that INCOIS provides a multi-hazard warning for various disasters including tsunamis wherein (i) threat, (ii) travel time, (iii) directivity, and (iv) earthquake maps are provided to 25 different countries of the region that are likely to be affected by the same. It was added that in case of storm surges INCOIS provides information relating to storm surges and inundation to 06 different countries.

It was further communicated that INCOIS has developed a Search and Rescue Aid Tool (SARAT) for locating missing objects in the ocean on the basis of its last known location.

Towards the end of the presentation, he appraised the gathering on various community outreach programs of INCOIS aimed at making the masses aware of various ocean-related hazards.

Dr. Balakrishnan Nair Of INCOIS was followed by Dr. Piyoosh Rautela of Uttarakhand State Disaster Management Authority who briefed the audience on the disaster vulnerability of the newly created Himalayan state. Dr. Rautela talked about previous major disaster incidences in the region including the 1803 Garhwal Earthquake, the 1894 Alaknanda flood, and the 1880 Sher-ka-Danda landslide apart from the 2013 Kedarnath disaster.

Dr. Rautela highlighted the fact that an earthquake in Uttarakhand could be a bigger threat to the surrounding Uttar Pradesh and National Capital Region which suffered significant losses during the Garhwal Earthquake of 1803.

Drawing the attention of the audience towards long-drawn seismic quiescence resulting in a  Seismic Gap (of 1905 Kangra and 1934 Bihar-Nepal earthquakes) in the region he called upon one and all to accept and act in accordance with the seriousness of the issue.

Stressing seismic vulnerability and previous losses, Dr. Rautela stressed the need of promoting and popularising the earthquake early warning system of USDMA that provides better warning lead time in this region. He thus called upon everyone in UP and NCR to subscribe to the earthquake early warning mobile application of USDMA that could provide them the opportunity of minimizing losses in the event of a large magnitude earthquake in the Himalayas.

In view of the September 2003 Varunavat and March 2005 Ramolsari landslides as also recent February 2021 Dhauliganga-Rishiganga floods, the October 2021 Kumaun disaster, and October 2022 Draupadi-ka-Danda avalanche tragedy Dr. Rautela drew the attention of the house towards changing disaster scenario wherein hydro-meteorological disasters are crossing the realm of monsoon period and this according to him, is a major cause of concern not only for the masses but also for the responders.

Through vivid pictures, Dr. Rautela drew the attention of the audience toward the impact that disaster incidences have on the region and stressed the need for a coordinated response.

The post-lunch session of the day was packed with real thrill and action – and that too in the sky. After the arrival of the Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh, CDS Lt. Gen. Anil Chauhan, Chief of Air Staff V.R. Chaudhari, and other dignitaries it was the time for live action wherein capabilities of the Air Force for various post-disaster operations were showcased.

The sequence of events was orchestrated around a large-magnitude earthquake scenario in the Ranikhet – Pithoragarh region of Uttarakhand. In the beginning reconnaissance of the affected area was done by SU-30 aircraft with an EOIR pod and in view of operations being long-drawn air-to-air refueling capability was demonstrated by IL 78 and SU-30 aircraft.  In order to provide communication facilities to the helicopters in narrow valleys helli tele facility was demonstrated by C-130 J aircraft.

The paramedics were then slithered down from the ALH MK-III helicopter and later casualty was winched up for referral. Bambi bucket operations were demonstrated by an MI-17 V5 helicopter for drowsing the fire. An underslung improvised LSV was then dropped in the affected area by a Chinook helicopter. In the end, C-17 made a short field landing.

After the air show, Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh ji highlighted the fast increasing role of the country in Southeast Asia and congratulated various uniformed services for putting up exemplary services during previous disaster incidences. In the beginning, he congratulated the Air Force for naming this exercise as SAMANVAY as aptly reflects the objectives and working ethos of the organization. He added that coordination is the basis of nature, life, and regeneration, and all entities small or big are in existence because of the coordination between their constituents. It is coordination between body and soul that makes a complete man as also that between the members of the family, community and nation ensures the growth and prosperity of these units. It is the disruption in coordination that results in problems that include hazard occurrences.

Highlighting the role the world community expects India to play, particularly in the South Asian region the Raksha Mantri narrated a story to reiterate the role of SAMANVAY-like exercises in bringing together various response agencies as also for inculcating crucial skills

The third day was dedicated to a tabletop exercise depicting a major earthquake scenario in the Kumaun region of Uttarakhand. With normal communication being disrupted, information was collected from different quarters through satellite phones.

The requirements were accordingly assessed and mobilized by various responders.

In the concluding session of the exercise, the need of strengthening the responders at the grassroots level was reiterated and it was resolved that in the future the Air Force would participate in mock exercises being organized by the states at various levels. It was at the same time added that the response agencies should desist from seeking publicity and strengthen the hands of responders at the grassroots level.

(The post-SAMANVAY accomplished appeared first on Risk Prevention Mitigation and Management Forum.)

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