Natural Calamities In The North East & Afghanistan

by Jul 7, 2022Energy & Environment0 comments

A natural calamity is a major event of adverse nature resulting from natural happenings, namely, earthquakes, floods, cyclones, landslides, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, forest fires etc which affect rural and urban areas at large and also make an area more vulnerable for a certain period.

2) According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, “disasters are serious disruptions to the functioning of a community that exceed its capacity to cope, using its own resources. These can be caused by natural, man-made and technological hazards,as well as various factors that influence the exposure and vulnerability of a community.”

Unchecked over exploitation of earth resources, habit of people to build houses in ‘ Risk Zones’ & sinking areas, deforestation.

Global warming & climate change also add to the crisis.

Hence nature alone should not be considered a culprit always.

3) According to the U.N. Disaster Monitoring System, large number of natural disasters used to occur earlier in the disaster prone pockets of Asia-Pacific region, which led to tremendous loss of human and animal life & property, loss of livelihood ,communication systems and many other short and long term social and economic disruptions. These also have the potential to generate a sizeable amount of waste, such as polythene, plastic and styrofoam. Adequate care is, therefore, called for, during the rescue and relief operations while coping with air pollution, blocking of drainage, scattered dead bodies etc or else many water borne diseases and respiratory illnesses ,mostly afflicting the women and children may happen.

4) Some of the major Cyclones of pre-1970 era, keeping in view high number of casualties are:

1737India3 lakh
1876E. Pakistan2 lakh
1881China3 lakh
1923Japan2.5 lakh
1970E. Pakistan3 lakh

In the same way, devastating Earthquakes of 20th Century are:

YearPlaceRichter ScaleDeaths
1905Kangra, H.P(8.0)20,000
1935Quetta, Pakistan(7.5)25,000
1988Bihar, W.B, Sikkim(6.7)1,300

Change of Focus

5) Natural disaster coping mechanisms by providing cash & kind only to victims were never free from corruption, rather it would lead to worsening of ongoing conflicts in an affected zone. Hence, a change of approach was felt necessary, which would be oriented towards disaster preparedness, duly assisted by regular sharing of data and expertise face to face as also by use of internet and mobile telephones.

Launching of the International Early Warning Programme by the U.N.O. in 2000 and subsequent declaration of October 13 as International Day For Disaster Reduction (I.D.D.R.) could be considered significant milestones internationally.

6) Similarly change of nodal Ministry from Agriculture & Co -operation to Home Affairs and setting up of National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) in 2004 led to transformation of the pattern of disaster management in India. In no time State and District level agencies too came up.

These got further fillip with formation of a dedicated National Disaster Response Force( NDRF) in 2006. Now with the help of such forces at key locations as also state capitals, response is becoming swift, certain and dependable.

NDRF with 13,000 trained professionals has been in a position to rescue over 1.44 lakh valuable lives and has evacuated more than 8 lakh persons stranded in disaster situations.

Extreme Weather Phenomena In North East India

7) Extreme weather developments nowadays are leading to unexpected heat, hot, sultry & humid conditions, cold or wetness etc, posing severe risks to human life. Sometimes localised unbearable weather can also cross geographical limits, causing destruction within two to three hours.

Talking of Tropical Cyclones, these also impact marine life and coastal regions more whereas inland regions are relatively safe from strong winds due to their rapid dissipation over land.

8) However, widespread floods can happen even in far inland areas due to the high amount of rain from Tropical cyclones.

This is what precisely has happened in the North Eastern states, especially in the second fortnight of June. According to a source,Meghalaya had recorded 203% excess rainfall, followed by Assam (170%), Tripura (151%), Arunachal Pradesh (65%), Mizoram (64%) and Manipur (20%).

9) When the Assam and Meghalaya flood situation was grim, these were widely reported in print and electronic media. With the situation improving in Meghalaya, in Manipur death of 34 persons and over 30 still missing in the biggest ever landslides(over a stretch of two kms)at a railway construction site at Marangching in Noney District on 29th June is sending shock waves. Maximum loss has been faced by the Jawans of Territorial Army, eleven of them hailing from Darjeeling and Sikkim.

10) Initially landslide debris had blocked Ijei river creating a reservoir. If sufficient number of excavators were not deployed, the original course of the river may not have been restored which may have led to inundation of many low lying areas.Because of continuous rainfall in the area flow in the local rivers is also expected to rise.

There is a precedent of such a nature in North Sikkim in 2017 when the fast flowing Kanaka river was blocked for a week by the debris of a landslide and one small village was submerged.

11) As far as Assam is concerned, at one stage, 32 out of 35 Districts were submerged including many parts of Guwahati. There is some respite in 25 Districts now. According to latest information released by Assam State Disaster Management Agency, the number of casualties has risen to 174 and 2.21 million people and a total of 1,590,557 domestic animals are still bearing the brunt of unprecedented floods.Setting up of 230 relief camps in Cachar Dist and 896 camps all over the state may not be sufficient. Water level in Barak river was flowing above danger level in several areas till recently leading to immense shortage of food, drinking water, medicines and many essential commodities.

12) When floods and landslides happen in Assam and many other states of Eastern India every year ,I suppose, local administration should make preparations in advance. All construction activities need to be halted especially along District and State roads.More damage in hilly portions of N.E. states and plains of Bihar in the coming two months can not be ruled out as in many areas Monsoon has not become aggressive as yet.

Need For Restrained Public Behaviour

13) In such challenging situations, the common man should be more vigilant and proactive rather than merely waiting for Government response.

Immediate action by the First Responders, Gram Panchayats and local N.G.O’s can very well pre empt a situation and possibly turn the tide. Any action taken should be in the interest of the community at large. In this regard, the act of damage to an embankment over Barak river (less dangerous than mighty Brahamputra) by some miscreants near Silchar town was completely uncalled for.

This proves the point that NATURAL DISASTERS CAN TAKE UNEXPECTED SHAPE even when an old and organized system may be in place.

Earthquake in Afghanistan

14) I may be failing in my task if the post earthquake pathetic situation in Afghanistan is not paid attention. The country of 38 million has witnessed large-scale devastation owing to earthquakes in the Eastern provinces of Paktika, Khost and Nangarhar. The country, already undergoing an acute economic crisis, following the fresh takeover by the Talibans on 15th August 2021, had to face a massive earthquake at 6.2 on Richter scale on 22nd June.

Although number of deaths reported are 1150( including 115 children)and injuries to over 3000, in actual reality numbers may rise further due to pathetic condition of roads, rugged unattended terrain, frequent tremors, rain off and on, lack of necessary equipment and above all, a less exposed and inefficient public administration.Many people are still feared to be buried under the rubble of mud brick and other type of 10,000 houses.

Lack of painkillers and antibiotics being reported from the majority of health centers is adding to the crisis.

The Indian Humanitarian Aid

15) Without waiting for response from the so called fair weather friends of Afghanistan, Govt. of India has dispatched 27 tons of relief materials(comprising family ridge tents, sleeping bags, mats and blankets) by air. Further, 6 tons of essential medicines have been airlifted in continuation of similar assistance in the past. The decision to reopen and run the Indian Embassy in Kabul and a few Consulates through the “Technical Officers” could be considered a step in the right direction.

Being unable to control the situation, the Taliban Government had appealed for international aid but response so far is far from encouraging. A few organizations, such as, WFP, WHO, UNHCR and the Norwegian Refugee Council have ,however, offered some cash assistance and relief materials.An Italian NGO named Emergency is also coming forward to extend help.

16) As no more casualty or damage was reported, the Deputy President of Afghan Red Crescent has stated on 27th June that there is not so much of need for food or non- food items.The most critical need according to him was cash for survivors to take care of basic needs.

But the ball lies in the court of the USA and some other countries to defreeze Afghan Government assets. The USA President has shown only his verbal concern and offered sympathy and prayers.USA has also promised to provide a little bit of financial aid and lead the international community in responding to humanitarian issues of Afghans.


(The author is former Chief Secretary, Sikkim)

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x