KOLKATA: The institutional framework for disaster management in West Bengal is weak because of deficient functioning of the State Disaster Management Authority, the Comptroller and Auditor General has noted.
In a report laid in the Assembly for the year ended March 2013, the CAG noted that plans were often not prepared by departments as required.
Disaster-specific action plans were found lacking in many ways and vulnerability assessment of blocks was only partial, it said.
The report suggested that timely preparation of annual disaster management plans indicating specific work to be undertaken should be ensured at all levels.
"Proper mechanism to identify unutilised balances lying with districts should be devised. Moreover, it should be ensured that funds for immediate relief are utilised with adequate urgency for effective distribution of relief material among the affected people," it said.
On the state's financial management on the issue, the CAG said the state government did not have an effective monitoring mechanism to identify unspent balances of the State Disaster Relief Fund lying in its accounts.
"Significant amount of funds meant for immediate relief were not utilised effectively owing to parking of funds, delay in release and diversion etc.," it said.
On the operational front, it said emergency operation centres at the district level were not working round-the-clock except during monsoon and lacked dedicated manpower, which should be rectified.
Giving an example, it said that in East Midnapore, a cyclone-prone district, the Cyclone Warning System was not functioning and the Geographical Information System lacked connectivity.
There were also deficiencies in preparedness of the Civil Defence Emergency Force both in terms of manpower and material.
It said the objective of negotiating man-made disaster through creation of special combat battalion remained largely unachieved because of lack of required connectivity.
The establishment of special groups under Kolkata Police also did not materialise.
Noting that construction of shelters and relief godowns were still in progress, the report said that in relief distribution after disasters, there were cases of non-distribution, delayed distribution of both gratuitous relief and cash assistance.
Observing that there were also shortages of disaster management officers at various levels, the report said the issue of filling up vacancies at various levels and of West Bengal Civil Emergency Force should be addressed.
"The existence of a full-fledged Disaster Management Department was indicative of the seriousness and focus given to this issue, since West Bengal has a history of recurring natural disasters," it said.
While coastal districts were exposed to floods and cyclones, several southern districts were drought-prone. A number of districts in North Bengal were exposed to flash floods and landslides, it added.