Saturday, 14 November 2015

We Cannot Stop Natural Disasters, But We Can Arm Ourselves With Knowledge

As a Disaster Management Project Manager I'm constantly met with the questions: Why study Disaster Management? Why here?

I have always been fascinated by natural hazard events and the impact and interaction such events have with human populations, so for me it's a simple answer. India is a geography lovers heaven and the vast environmental diversity that India presents also allows for significant scope for natural hazards to impact on the lives of its' 1.3 billion inhabitants.

This map only indicates the risks posed by earthquakes, volcanoes and tropical storms - let alone mentions the other risks posed by flash floods/flooding, avalanches, landslides, tsunamis and extreme weather. All of which could affect the interns and the communities that we are engaged with.

To me this is why Disaster Management is important, our Naddi centre is located so close to the same fault line that ruptured causing the earthquake in Nepal on the 25th April 2015 - in addition to which seismologists are predicting the same fault line will rupture again in the Indian Himachal mountain range sometime in the near future.

The beautiful but ever threatening Himalayas
If you even look back at past events that have impacted the Himachal Region, there has been a significant loss of livelihood as a result of Natural Hazards. In 1905 an Earthquake (Magnitude 8) occurred in Kangra which resulted in 20,000 deaths alongside significant damage spreading radially 416,000km2. Alongside, there are significantly disruptive landslides yearly in the Shimla District that cause extended road closures and a handful of deaths too - an issue that the district authority is still failing to address since the first event 10 years ago.

Recently I walked around Naddi in order to document and map the visible landslide sites on a 5km stretch of path. What I found was a number of sites showing potential for future landslides as well as the locations of past landslides varying in size. This is something that can be lowered by promoting appropriate land use and discouraging deforestation - but currently there is no established awareness programme to champion such behaviour.

Working with the forestry team to record our findings using GPS
One of the biggest landslide sites we recorded - Only a few kilometers away from the Naddi Community!
All of these issues are right on our doorstep, yet the communities are blissfully unaware or happy believing it'll never impact them. This is something that I want to address through my project work starting in Naddi and then spreading to our other centres. It is vital to raise the perception of such hazards and also to encourage and promote appropriate grassroots mitigation strategies; accessing all ages via targeted workshops and community activities. No matter how small, the difference that can be made through future Disaster Management projects is so important as a matter of saving lives and maintaining environmentally sustainable rural livelihoods.

Rebecca Lewis - United Kingdom
Disaster Management Coordinator, Naddi, Himachal Pradesh

No comments:

Post a Comment