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disaster Management

Disaster Management

Disasters do not affect only health & well being of people, but large number of people are displaced, killed of injured. Considerable economic harm is also common. Disasters cause great harm to the existing infrastructure and threaten the future of sustainable development. Disaster are not confined to a particular part of the world, they can strike at any time at any place. Statistics gathered since 1969 show a rise in the number of people affected by disasters. Since there is little evidence that the actual events causing disasters are increasing in either intensity or frequency, it can be concluded that vulnerability to disaster is growing. The Tsunami in Asia and Africal (26th December 2004) killed over 2,00,000 people and left millions homeless and traumatized. The hurricanes Rita and katrina in United states of America killed more than 1200 lives and displaced over 1 million. The massive earthquake that struck Kashmir (8th October, 2005) killed at least 73,000 and left more than 3.3 million people homeless.

United Nations General Assembly, in 1989, declared the decade 1990-2000 as the international decade for Natural Disaster Reduction with the objective to reduce loss of life and properties and restrict socio-economic damage through continuous action, especially in developing countries. Ninety percent of the natural disasters and ninety five present of the total disaster related deaths worldwide occur in developing countries in which India is the second largest sufferer.

India is a highly disaster prone country in Asia-Pacific region. The disasters are common in several parts of the country. India with diverse hypsographic and climatologial conditions has 70% of the cultivable land prone to draught, 60% of land area prone to Earthquake, 12% to floods and 8000 km. Costal line prone to Cyclones. Overall 85% of the land area is vulnerable to number of natural hazards and 22 states are categorized as multihazards states.

Though disasters can not be stopped, we can reduce its effects with better understanding and remain prepared for that. For understanding disaster it is important to understand the meaning of various concepts, definitions, trends and practices.

What is Disaster?

The term disaster owes its origin to the French word “Desastre” which is a combination of two words “des” meaning bad and “astre” meaning star. Thus, the term refers to “Bad” or Evil star. Disaster can be defined as below. Any occurrence that causes damage, ecological disruption, loss of human life or deterioration of health & Health services on a scale sufficient to warrant an extraordinary response from outside the affected community or area is called DISASTER. Some of the recent disasters include super Cyclone in Orissa in 1999, the Earthquake in Gujarat in 2001, Tsunami in Coastal regions of South India in 2004, floods in Mumbai in 2005.

Key elements of a disaster

Disasters result from combination of hazards, conditions of vulnerability and insufficient capacity to reduce the potential negative consequences of risk.


A potentially damaging physical event, phenomenon or human activity, which may cause the loss of life or injury, property damage, social and economic disruption or environment degradation
e.g. Earthquakes, Flood, Industrial gas leakage. Based of causes, hazards are classified in to the following categories
(1) Natural
(2) Technological
(3) Environmental

(1) Natural Hazards

Natural processes or phenomena occurring in the biosphere that may constitute a damaging event. Natural hazards can be classified according to their origins.

(1.1) Hydro-meteorological Hazards:-
Natural processes or phenomena of atmospheric hydrological or oceanographic nature.
e.g. Floods, Cyclones, Drought, Avalanches.
(1.2) Geological Hazard:-
Natural earth processes or phenomena that include processes of endogenous origin or tectonic origin.
e.g. Earthquake, Tsunami, Volcanic activity and emissions.
(1.3) Biological Hazards:-
Processes of organic origins or those conveyed by biological vectos. e.g. Outbreaks of epidemic diseases.

(2) Technological Hazards

Danger originating from technological or industrial accidents, dangerous procedures, infrastructures failures or certain human activities.
e.g. Industrial Pollution, Nuclear Accidents, Aviation Accidents, Radiological Accidents.

(3) Environmental Degradation

Processes induced by human behaviors and activities that damage the natural resource base adversely and after natural processes or ecosystems. e.g. Climate change, sea-level rise, Ozone depletion, wild land fire, deforestation.


It is the condition determined by physical, social, economic and environmental factors or processes, which increase the susceptibility of a community to the impact of hazards.
e.g. During the Gujarat Earthquake (2001) people living in the old city of Bhuj with narrow roads, unsafe high-rise buildings faced more injuries and loss of life, than those living in the suburbs.
Indicators of vulnerability are poverty, population explosion, unemployment, increasing migrant flows, illiteracy.


Capacity is the combinations of all the strengths and resources available within a community, society or organization that can reduce the level of risk, or the effects of a disaster.
Capacity may also be described as capability.
e.g. After the floods in Vadodara district (Gujarat) in 2005, it was seen that villages with existing “Disaster Management Teams” responded to the floods well in time, by rescuing people to pre-identified safe areas.
Two concepts are widely used in Disaster Management within the framework of ‘CAPACITY”.

(1) Coping Capacity :-
The manner in which people and organizations use existing resources to achieve various benefits during unusual, abnormal and adverse conditions of a disaster.
e.g. Set up of Community kitchen in temples and schools after disaster.
(2) Resilience :-
The capacity of a system, community or society to resist or to change in order that it may obtain an acceptable level in functioning and structure.
e.g. After Gujarat Earthquake (2001), local communities began clearing the debris and reconstructing their houses even before external help came from government or other

(IV) RISK :-

It is the probability of harmful consequences or expected losses resulting from interactions between natural or human induced hazards and vulnerable conditions.
Risk = Hazard disaster Vulnerability

Disaster Risk

Disaster risk is the probability of harmful consequences or expected loss of lives, people injured, property, and environment damaged resulting from interactions between natural or human induced hazards and vulnerable conditions. e.g. An earthquake hazard of the same magnitude in a sparsely populated village of Rajasthan and in the densely populated city of Delhi will cause different levels of damage to human lives, property and economic activities.

When does a HAZARD lead to a Disaster?

A disaster occurs when the impact of a hazard on a section of society exceeds the capacity to prevent or cope with it.
e.g. If an earthquake strikes a desert uninhabited by human being, it would not cause direct and immediate damage to the society and thus would not be termed as a disaster. The earthquakes that struck Bhuj in 2001 and killed more than 14,000 people become a disaster owing to its immediate impact on the society.


The disasters can be classified by many ways like speed, origin, cause etc.
Broadly it can be divided into three categories. Few examples of each category are also enlisted.

Natural Events Technological Events Human Events
Volcanic Eruptions
Wildland fires
Aviation Accidents
Nuclear accidents
Railway accidents
Radiological accidents
Transportation accidents

Biological agents

For every citizen of India, it is advisable to have some knowledge regarding Disaster, Disaster Management and Disaster Risk Management Programme, Disaster Reduction Programme.
This is the first article on Disaster & Disaster Management which will be helpful to the society at large.