Disaster Mitigation and Management Disasters: A Quick FAQ

    Hari Srinivas

  • What is a disaster?
    A disaster is an unexpected accident resulting from natural or man-made factors (or a combination of both) that has a negative impact on the daily lives and living conditions of humans and flora/fauna.

  • What are the different kinds of disasters?
    There are different types of disasters that have a high impact. Natural disasters include floods, droughts, earthquakes, cyclones, hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, landslides, volcanic eruptions etc. Man-made disasters can include chemical accidents, oil spills, radiological accidents, conflicts/wars, mass population displacement or refugee emigration, forest fires etc.

  • Why are disasters occurring?
    There are a number of reasons for the increasing frequency and severity/intensity of disasters that we are currently observing. One of the key reasons is a growing vulnerability due to demographic and land use changes. Increasing population, particularly in developing countries, places a greater burden on resources needed to sustain this population.

  • What are the human causes?
    A decline of urban habitats through unplanned urban growth, expansion of urban areas and massive over-loading of city systems has led to cumulative problems not only within the cities, but also far beyond their boundaries. This is particularly true when we take into account the life styles and consumption patterns that we are currently seeing in cities. For example, need for food and timber for building has increased erosion of topsoil due to deforestation, draining of wetlands. This has eroded the natural defenses against disasters such as flooding and desertification.

  • What are the challenges to mitigate disasters?
    We need to recognize the fact that natural disasters are increasing in both frequency and intensity. Their impact on human lives and livelihoods, and the economy as a whole, is also increasing, due to higher population numbers and densities. Simultaneously, disasters caused as a result of human activities are also increasing, notwithstanding the awareness campaigns and strategic programming undertaken. Capacity to combat disasters in developing countries is particularly weak, and disaster preparedness strategies and programmes need to be built into ongoing developmental efforts, and link it to broader economic development. A number of stakeholders, at the global, national, sub-regional and local levels need to come together with different resources to deal with disaster mitigation.

  • What are the elements of disaster preparedness and mitigation?
    One of the key aspects in disaster mitigation is to take into account all aspects of a disaster - and not just human relief and rehabilitation. Economic, social and environmental impacts need to be anticipated and appropriate measures taken. The entire disaster cycle of prevention, preparedness, assessment, mitigation and response should be part of any disaster mitigation plans.

    Prevention and preparedness need to be the cornerstone of any emergency plan. Anticipating the level of damage with geographical information systems, simulation software, early warning etc. are also critical elements of a good disaster preparedness and mitigation plan. This has to be integrated with a post-disaster assessment, which can be used to draw lessons for preparedness and mitigation.

  • What should disaster mitigation plans aim for?
    Initiatives dealing with disasters need to examine and assess disasters, as well as circumstances underlying their occurrence. It should cover various laws and regulations, designed to mitigate and prepare for disasters. It should also demonstrate how well informed, grass-root organizations can successfully implement disaster management programmes.

 Do you have any suggestions or additions to make on the above information? Please send an email to Hari Srinivas at hsrinivas@gdrc.org
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Contact: Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org