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The destruction caused by the Uttarakhand floods is till date is mourned by people all over the world. It also exposed the weakness of the disaster management standards of our country.

The researchers claim that there were three reasons for the cataclysmic floods- one, early movement of the monsoon winds which resulted in heavy rainfall, and this, Meteorological Department (IMD) claims to have predicted and warned before.

Two, the melting of glaciers due to heavy rainfall caused larger-than-expected amounts of water to flow through the hilly region.

Three, massive landslides due to heavy rains and formation of a temporary lake which broke into streams and eventually transformed into flash floods claiming 10,000 lives or more.

Of the above reasons, a few were predictable, the rest out of hands and could be blamed on the nature's fury.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) with Prime Minister as the ex-officio chairman and a group of retired bureaucrats and police officers in this case had failed in devising a disaster management plan and reducing the number of lives claimed.

Just after a span of three months, our country was in the verge of being hit by another massive catastrophic cyclone-Phailin. Here, NDMA stands in a divergent scenario from the Uttarakhand tragedy and needs to be lauded in its readiness in tackling the cyclone and saving India from yet another global mortification.

The very severe super cyclone which originated in the Gulf of Thailand hit the states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh October 2013, damaging many districts of the two states. The cyclone struck the Eastern coastal areas causing many rivers to infringe their embankments and flood over 1,600 villages.

In spite of facing several problems like non-availability of equipments, poor man power management and deficiency in training, the NDMA triumphed this time with the combined efforts of the central government agencies, the state governments, the public administrations and the non governmental agencies.

The NDMA was able to evacuate nearly ten lakh people from the 14 districts of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha to cyclone shelters with minimal loss of lives.

This is an act of acclamation for timely management to formulate disaster management plans and coordinated operational procedures to reduce the disaster management risks and the resulting damages.

However, the post-disaster monitoring in the cyclone hit areas is something that is begging attention. The key objectives of NDMA and SDMA should also include rehabilitating and reconstructing of the disaster hit areas. Here, these institutions have once again failed.

With property damage amounting to 21,000 crore rupees, peoples from the two states are suffering in the rehabilitation camps. They are facing problems like shortage of food, clothing and medicines. The job of the NDMA and the SDMA should not end only at the rescuing the people from the natural calamity. It should also look after the rehabilitation of the displaced person into their actual habitats.

The lesson learnt from the natural calamity is that the NDMA and SDMA should be given additional roles to perform the post disaster management functions. This requires for a more robust, effective and committed disaster management authority in India.

Rashmi Reddy

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